I dropped off extra starts and talked weed control with the neighbors

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One of the worst things in the alley way beds is weed control.  The soil is really bad for most plants other than weeds and the weeds tend to be very unpleasant, full of pointy spikes and leaves.  A few years ago I tried using weed killer and I not only killed the weeds I killed the soil and that only invited in more weeds.  So for the last 2 years I have used Black Walnut leaves as a “killer mulch” in the worst areas.  Oh I still have some weeds but the weeds are the broadleaf type and not all pointy and annoying like puncture vine/goatheads.

I have added some wood mulch and two plants that seem to grow great in poor soil and with little water.  Sunchokes have done great and while they can spread they grow/spread slowly.  I planted Sunchokes three years ago and all the plant has done is got a bit thicker and bushy.  The roots/Rhizomes are still localized and not taking over the alley way area.  Low growing sedums planted and add a bit of wood mulch to retain water.  I planted sedum for the first time last year and half of the plants came back this year.  Not to bad for a plant that is subject to getting driven over and growing in poor soil with very little water other than rain.

The alley way beds are a work in progress of eliminating the nastiest weeds first!  That includes adding mulch and plant that I want that grow in poor soil conditions.  I’m also adding wood mulch to start to help with both water retention and as a sort of ground cover that prevents some if not all weeds.  While this is not a perfect system I have had very few goat heads or cheat grass to deal with in my my beds despite the fact some of my neighbors have very thick “nasty” weeds.  The best way to stop weeds is to improve the soil and add plants that you want that don’t give weeds a place to grow.

We are trying out some Balsam oil sachets with out mouse infestation of the basement.  While still early days it seems that the mice do not like the Balsam oil Sachets and the mice don’t always go outside to to escape the odor.  The mice do seem to be concentrated in my food storage area and while I “dropped the ball” on some of my food storage protocols, but most of my long term  food storage is safe from mice.

Prepper porn often consists of shelving units and there is a reason for that!   The SHTF has not happened but I have a darn annoying mouse problem.  Gosh can you imagine how much worse it could be if trash is not removed for a few months?  Work on fixing your problems now when you can access to stores or even “vermin control” you can call in if needed.

Last but not least,  learn from others mistakes especially mine own.  Don’t beat yourself up if you let a few item slide.  We are all learning stuff and we all make mistakes.   At this time we are afforded time to live and learn.

Starter plants and the marigold flat are in the ground

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I think  SW Idaho is in the new 5A Zone that includes Arkansas.  That being said you  really need to grow celery.  I have had good luck growing “Utah High” via starter plants and seed.  Celery is easy to grow and I think it should be in every garden.  The plants grown in “peat pots” are in the garden but we still feel things may not work out but are willing to give the plants a chance.  We re-potted all plants from the small “peat pots”  and will hand out to neighbors if the plants survive.

The little garden fence was a no go and would not keep out small peke that wants to dig in dirt.  It is an ugly fence but somewhat effective and cheap.  You might see the new marigolds planted around the raised beds.



Mom says we have a bit of space for other plants but I want to see how the plants fill in the garden over the summer.  I placed the bird bath out in the garden as I noticed the little birds taking dust baths.

I sprayed the outside of the house for insects and the product is supposed to be residual for at least 3-6 months. WE have bugs and I dropped the “ball” being proactive on dealing with vermin.  Prevention cost a lot less but you have to deal with what life hands you even if you “Screwed the pooch”.

Plan of attack for the vermin.  Spray the insect killer inside the house where bugs may gather and breed.  Sort of the same way I deal with the mice.  New shelving units built or bought that can be put on casters and easy to move.  Place all food in at least heavy  duty buckets or bins.

I screwed up by having a food source accessible.  Now I’m paying the price of trying to eliminate both bugs and rodents.  Learn from my mistakes and screw up  now.  Golly we all screw up while learning new stuff and that is a good thing in the long term.  Of course it does tend to cost us a bit short term.

Okay a bit of a re- hash but I put up a fence that seems to stop my dogs digging up plants.  I sprayed a insecticide barrier around the house.  I finished planting my starter plants in the big garden bed.  Not a bad bit of work for a Saturday.

Mouse hunt, plants and the 1st wall built for the new compost pile

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In the last couple of weeks of our mouse hunt we have caught over 40 mice in the chicken house and in the house.  For traps we are using box traps and sticky traps because we have critters and pets.  Snap traps will injure any animal and while sticky traps can get the dogs the traps can bet cut away with some scissors.   I’m trying out a rodent repellent in the basement that smells of balsam fir oil.  I added 6 bags of this “repellent” in hope that it will start driving the mice out of the basement.  Next week I will purchase the wood and start building shelving units in the basement.  My plan is to clean up all the mouse droppings,  Bleach and sanitize the walls to stop the mouse trails and make it safe from those mouse carried diseases and have all food items stored in long term containers that are vermin proof.  The last requirement of the shelving is it will accommodate traps or spraying for bugs long term.   While I may have slacked off  the last 6 months on storage.  My long-term food supply is very safe in 55 gallon metal drums.

Plants for the garden.

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As you can see I have a flat of Marigolds and several starer plants for the garden.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As you can see the pepper plants between the cages took quite a beating and look a bit sad.   I have starts to replace the peppers and my deep 4 ft.x 4ft raised bed is for any  plants that have no planned spot.  You can see the Black garden fence.  Well it has not worked for stopping the small digger dogs.  What has worked is those fold flat tomato cages hooked to the chain linked fence and  covers the small beds.

First wall of the new compost pile wall is built.   My carpentry skills are rudimentary at best, but as I build stuff I learn more about carpentry and how to make what I want in my mind happen in reality.  This the first wall of my compost pile and I can hide my screw ups against the chicken area. I learned a lot just putting together this first wall.  Overall I think this new compost bin idea will work long term and I’m also learning about how to work with different types of lumber and how to use those product around the yard.


The image on the left is the new wall of the compost pile.  The image on right is the my pathetic attempt of making a compost bin out of pallets that was less than successful.  There is nothing wrong with screwing up by the numbers if it does not cost you.  I learned the wrong way to use pallets to make a cheap compost pile.  Trust me I went very cheap and I did not know how to make anything plus I lacked the proper tools to make pallets work.   There is nothing wrong with using pallets to build a compost pile.  I just gave a pic of my screwed up compost pile to show that without knowledge and skills, half-assing stuff will probably end up costing you more money time and energy is the likely outcome.  I don’t have a lot of “extra” money to invest in stuff.  I really don’t have a lot of personal energy/strength to invest in screwing up.  So getting  stuff right or at least learning how to get stuff built right is critical.

I’m still not sure on how the compost pile will turn out,  though I have enough lumber to build a 2 bin system.  At this time the built wall will be on left side as well. I will have a divider section and a pressure treated built back wall.  I’m spending some dollars to build “my” compost system. Can you do a compost system cheaper?  Of course you can build one of those.  I’m no longer worried about cheap I’m worried about a working system for me.  I can afford to look beyond cheap and look at making stuff easy.

Plants got frost nipped and today we got hail

My peppers got frost nipped and just for extra fun, they got pummeled by hail today.  I added some protection after the storm started but I think the peppers are probably toast. The weathermen are for casting possible snow here in the valley.  Not unheard of too me but Spring time in Idaho is a bit more “eclectic” than I prefer.   We are good here at Casa de Chaos as we are late planting many “starter plants”.  The cabbages and cole crops survived the cold/hail.  I also planted the plants in a “protected” place in the front yard.  Just a small garden planting set back at this time.  Springtime in Idaho!

I bought the lumber for the new compost pile.  I’m using pressure treated 4×4 posts at the corners.  2×4 pressure treated boards to tie the pile together and cedar wood fencing to cover/contain the compost.  I’ll have to layout and tweak the plan over the next week.  I’m not just trying to make my garden “pretty”.  Every element must have a use to make the garden better in the long run.

I have most of the materials for building a compost mound/heap.  I want it to be semi-attractive as well as a good compost pile that is somewhat easy to work. Good construction makes life easier in the long run.

I really dropped the ball on my basement storage.  The mice are berserk and all of it is because I did not store foods properly in containers.  So Mom and I are trying out a few different items to get rid of mice and I’m looking to build  proper shelves to fight the vermin problem.  So we will see how it works out.  I’m not getting all “butt hurt” just because I “screwed the pooch” this time.  prepping and getting self-sufficient is a journey and not about one screw up.

A little late on the 3 sisters and pics.

I’m still sort of tweaking the 3 sisters garden beds.  I know what does not work from last year’s experiment. These beds are an adjustment and not necessarily the end result for the 3 sisters experiment. Via most web sites the corn and beans are  suggested to have a mound of dirt above the squash plants. I can test this out on my beds though they are only 3 ft. x 3 ft. wide.  I think adding a raised mound for the corn and beans is doable on a bed and then try a regular raised bed garden for the other beds.  Growing plants has so many variables that there are no hard and fast rules.  Each gardener must try out how thing work in the yard and garden.  If it is stupid and it works it ain’t stupid!

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Cedar boxes for the 3 sisters garden.

This is a bit of tweaking as corn, beans and squash did not do as well as I wanted in the big garden bed.   My garden got overgrown and was not healthy so by separating the plants I hope to create a better garden.  Those 3 beds cost about $80.00 in materials and I can afford that now.  But I started out using reclaimed materials and going “cheap” to start a garden.  Start small if you that is all you can do.  Often the hardest thing to do is just start.

The front yard edible beds.  I have a bit of work to do but over all the beds are looking darn good.

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It may not look like much but I have lettuce, spinach and brussel sprouts  growing.

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I thought I got of the happy little cabbages in the front yard beds,  but no luck finding them to post.

Simple and easy are not the same thing.  Almost every thing life is simple, that does not mean it is easy.  I’m not a homesteader and with my physical limitations I can not be one.  But that does not mean I can’t try and do stuff around the house.

Gosh I have learned so much from making basic raised beds to chopping up my own kindling.  We got slammed this winter so I’m prepping for a hard winter.   The worst that can happen is I’m ready for a hard winter.  The best that can happen is I’m very ready for a hard winter.

A little late on the 3 sisters and pics.

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I’m still sort of tweaking the 3 sisters garden beds.  I know what does not work from last year’s experiment. These beds are an adjustment and not necessarily the end result for the 3 sisters experiment. Via most web sites the corn and beans are  suggested to have a mound of dirt above the squash plants. I can test this out on my beds though they are only 3 ft. x 3 ft. wide.  I think adding a raised mound for the corn and beans is doable on a bed and then try a regular raised bed garden for the other beds.  Growing plants has so many variables that there are no hard and fast rules.  Each gardener must try out how thing work in the yard and garden.  If it is stupid and it works it ain’t stupid!

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Cedar boxes for the 3 sisters garden.

This is a bit of tweaking as corn, beans and squash did not do as well as I wanted in the big garden bed.   My garden got overgrown and was not healthy so by separating the plants I hope to create a better garden.  Those 3 beds cost about $80.00 in materials and I can afford that now.  But I started out using reclaimed materials and going “cheap” to start a garden.  Start small if you that is all you can do.  Often the hardest thing to do is just start.

The front yard edible beds.  I have a bit of work to do but over all the beds are looking darn good.

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It may not look like much but I have lettuce, spinach and brussel sprouts  growing.

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I thought I got of the happy little cabbages in the front yard beds,  but no luck finding them to post.

Simple and easy are not the same thing.  Almost every thing life is simple, that does not mean it is easy.  I’m not a homesteader and with my physical limitations I can not be one.  But that does not mean I can’t try and do stuff around the house.

Gosh I have learned so much from making basic raised beds to chopping up my own kindling.  We got slammed this winter so I’m prepping for a hard winter.   The worst that can happen is I’m ready for a hard winter.  The best that can happen is I’m very ready for a hard winter.

Ugh morning glory. 3 Sisters beds are done!

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I got most of my chores done today.  The big bed got weeded and a quick roto-till to loosen the soil for planting.  Mom got the actual plants in the garden,  Four sweet peppers, two types of egg plant and two types of cukes.  Mom’s tall peppers she started back in March wilted a bit in the heat and transplant shock.  Mom gave the peppers a good drink of water and we added the canvas tarps to keep off the direct sun and the peppers perked up after an hour or two.  These light weight canvas painter tarps are great for protecting plants from a light frost or the heat of the sun, relatively inexpensive and great multi-taskers.  SW Idaho has cooler weather coming in this weekend so we are going to keep “hardening” the melons, tomatoes and some of the smaller plants and plant on Monday.

I had a bit more work than I anticipated in the 3 sisters raised beds.  Morning glory was bad even with the layers of mulch I added last fall. I used a garden rake to grab the weeds and pull aside the mulch. I dug up as much of the weeds as possible but these beds will need to be monitored and weeded often this year.  I have to say the soil was looking much better after adding the wood mulch for the last two years.  Not perfect so I added some garden soil and compost to augment the soil I tilled up for the raised beds.  Using both my dirt and augmenting with bought garden soil seems to make make darn good vegetable garden soil.  I don’t block off my raised garden beds from the ground because after one or two years I have not seen much difference in weed growth.  I do see a big difference in veggie production when I include my dirt in the garden soil mix.  I’m feeling positive the 3 ft. x 3 ft. garden bed is going to be easy to work with as far as weeding the beds are concerned. Especially since I left plenty of room for my garden cart and to walk around the beds. I have learned it is a lot easier to weed and work many small garden beds compared to caring for one large bed.    Once I pull the mulch into place between the 3 sisters bed and do some cleanup I will post up some pics.

My back yard grass patch is still a bit spotty but where the grass is growing it has been growing great!  Last year I laid out sod and it did okay but I think my soil prep was not great and the type of grass did not do well with a sun and shade mix.  To correct the problem I’m going with a sun and shade mix that is drought tolerant and made for the local area. I’m adding compost and reseeding the grass this spring to try and fill in the patchy areas.  I have reduced the part of my backyard that is dedicated to lawn because a good lawn takes a lot of work and resources but I also want some lawn around as it is cool in the summer and my little dogs love rolling around and playing in the grass.

I’m lucky, I have no CC&Rs where I live so I can have mulch pathways, a front yard garden with edibles.  I can experiment with the alley way beds and learn how to kill out weeds naturally, without using roundup that kills everything including the soil.  I have had better luck killing weeds by using mulch and augmenting the soil rather than resorting to “Chemical” warfare” against Mama nature.  I’m not sure it is actually slower as last summer Mom and I dug up “goat heads” /puncture vine and I added wood ash, a killer mulch made of walnut leaves and a layer of wood mulch.  For plants I have added Sunchokes and a few sedum plants to provide ground cover.  Mom cleaned up the weeds, some thistle, “Cheat” grass and some Fox tails among others but NO! Goat heads at all were dug up.  Not a bad result in just one growing season.

Mom weeded the Alley and Mouse problems

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Mom got out this weekend and got the alley way weeds pulled up around the sunchokes and the sedum plants.  That was a huge job even though she says she did not do all that much work.  I have been working on the alley way  trying to improve the soil and kill out the weeds in the last year by using a killing mulch of walnut leaves and adding wood ash from the wood stove and wood mulch. We have broad leaf weeds but I have yet to find a goat head/puncture vine in the area!  I was told you had to use a powerful weed killer on goatheads but just improving the soil a little bit and adding in some good ground cover plants seems to have eliminated that nasty weed in less than a year.  This week I will be adding so more wood mulch for broad leaf weed control and I will  add a few more sedum plants as ground cover to continue choking out all those weeds.  This is not the fastest method for killing weeds but it is very effective, cheap and you don’t kill your soil or the other plants you want to keep growing.

Last winter was tough and we had an influx of mice.  Having the chickens here sort of attracted the mice and with the harsh winter they came in the house.  Once the mice are in your house you have to catch them or  call in an Exterminator.  We are going try and  get rid of mice ourselves.  Mom got half the kitchen cupboards cleaned up with a bleach mixture and we are laying out a lot of sticky traps in the house.  More traps means you can catch more mice and cleaning up with bleach mix seems to disrupt the scent trails mice lay down.   Putting all food products in heavy plastic, glass or metal containers helps eliminate food sources for the mice.  Getting your prep up on shelves, organized and rotated will also help you keep the rodents under control as you will notice the problem quickly and can be proactive with your anti-vermin measures.  I dropped the ball on this part of my preps.  Building some good shelves in my prep area rather than just making due is a high priority this summer.  My carpentry skills are still in the beginner stage but I now feel confident I can build some basic items with out screwing up to badly and wasting lumber.

Last but not least I think you should store some construction materials if possible. You should have a good set up of basic tools and practice building some basic item around the house.  Battery powered tools from a basic drills, saws and more are relatively inexpensive and give you many more options for you to Do It Yourself.  Youtube has tons of instructional vids.  Home Depot and Lowes have classes for basic DIY classes you can take for free.  I have taken a few of the classes and for a couple of hours of time investment you can get a big payoff in knowledge.  The skills an knowledge you acquire can never be taken from you and no matter if you are a prepper or not, having those basic tools and the skill to use them will save you money after your initial investment.

Finished up the wood rack

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It is a very basic wood rack/rick.  It consists of four pressure treated 2x4s and one pressure treated 4×4 cut to 18 inches that forms the base that keeps the wood off the concrete and hopefully above any water, ice and snow in winter.  Two of the bottom 2x4s make the base and then the up rights are cut to 4 foot length. Once the rack is filled you have what I have read is a “face” cord of cut fire wood.  A true cord of wood is 4 ft. high, 4 ft. deep and 8 feet long. So if you are buying fire wood by the Cord make sure you know the difference in the measurements.  These racks are very simple to put together with just a few 3 inch deck screws and my total cost per rack is about $30.00 total.  I get the pressure treated 2×4 for about $5.50 each, the pressure treated 4×4 costs just under $10.00 for an 8 ft. board that I get 5ft length for other projects like my raised beds and the deck screws  I buy a pound or so and use them for other projects. Add a tarp and you have your covered fire wood rack.  I space the rack at 18 inches as that is the length of wood my wood stove takes so if a chunk of wood extends past the edge of the rack I know I need to cut that chunk of wood down to size.

I prefer building my racks rather than using a Metal/store bought framing because of cost and even the metal corner post/framing add a lot of cost at $20.00 a set.  Using this system you can add more cross braces or even top it off with a “roof” and still save money.  I’m using tarps right now as I need to tear down and replace the cover over the wood pile area.  This last winter was tough as we got a lot of snow, rain and minor flooding and my wood got wet which made starting a fire problematical at best and darn near impossible at worst.  So getting prepared ahead of time on firewood storage this summer is a high priority! I would also recommend you get a mix of woods like a fast, hot burning pine or fir along with a long burning hardwood.  Just a suggestion if you can get a mix of woods.

I got all of the 4x4s cut to size for the raised garden beds and finally got both sides of the cedar boards treated.  The weather has been damp this weekend so the drying process was delayed.  Now all I have to do is build the beds, rake back the mulch, dig up the weeds, roto-till the dirt, add the soil and mix it all up.  A bit of work but SW Idaho has some sunny days next week so I can space out the process over several days.  After I start getting the plants in the ground I can add the new drip/soaker hose watering system and use some straw to mulch around the plants.  One of my biggest mistakes last year was planting to close and not having a good watering system set up. Of course planting during the hottest week in June  in 100+ degree weather was not exactly a sign of great intelligence.

Overall I’m on schedule this year for the garden and the wood pile. Of course Murphy’s law will make it’s presence known, but so far I’m on schedule and have about of week of time to play with for that demon Murphy.

Murphy’s Law “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong at least convenient moment.”

 

 

Yard and Garden updates

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Cedar Boards for the raised 3 sisters garden.

I am working on raised beds for the 3 Sisters Garden of Corn, Beans and Squash.  Last year I put the sisters in my large garden bed and they did not do very well as I think they received to much water when I was watering the other plants.  This year the sister’s beds are going to be completely separate and have three different 3 ft. x 3 ft raised beds on the south side of the house.  My hope is the corn will cast a bit of shade as some the stalks can grow 12 feet tall and the plants will get only the water they need and not get over watered.   I should have realized different plants need different amounts of water!

If you are curious this is the new garden …backyard layout

I have added two 2 ft. x 4 ft. beds for broccoli and cauliflower with a couple of bunches of celery in each bed. Celery is one of those plants that seems to be a good companion to almost every plant. Plus, home grown celery is to store bought celery that home grown tomatoes is to a store bought tomato.  Celery in the garden is easy to use as you just cut off what you need and at the end of the season you cut off all the stalks, give them a quick blanch and then dehydrate them for all those dishes in the fall.

I put all of the brussel sprouts, cabbages and most of the leaf lettuce in the front yard edible beds.  I planted a lot of lettuce this year as the prices have really gone up a lot and I like having lots of green salads and sandwiches for quick and light lunches in the summer.  Going with earlier plantings of lettuce in several different  beds I hope to avoid the lettuce “bolting” in hot weather.

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Newly mulched beds

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Tulips

In the front yard we added a lot of flowers and cleaned up the front yard garden beds.  I got some of the old dead roses dug out and added some new roses.  The biggest of my  problems with my Rose beds was I had no idea what I was doing when I moved into the house and the roses were too close and became overgrown because of neglect.  As you can see in the top pic I have cut back the old roses that are still somewhat healthy, dug out the dead roses and while it is bit tough to see I added new roses with plenty of space between them to grow.  It does not look all that impressive so far but the new roses are  starting to put on new growth and  the mulch is has made a big dent stopping the weed growth. Mom was also a huge help on cutting back the grape vines that got very over grown  when not cut back each year.

Last but not least the Alley way beds now seem to be cleared of puncture vines though I still have some broad leaf weeds and a bit of “cheatgrass” to eliminate.  Using the black walnut leaves as a killer much has worked out great and adding the wood ash from the fire place, seems? to be helping the poor clay/alkali soil in the alley.  My little sedum plant from last year have come back and look darn good once you find them in the taller weeds.  The sunchokes are filling and while it may not look all that impressive I’m darn pleased with the progress made on those beds.  Adding more mulch, soil amendments and good plants like the sedum and sunchokes should start choking out the unwanted weeds.

I’m back!

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It has been a bit difficult the last 12 months but I am trying.  Lots of stuff to catch up with all of you.  I am not dead nor have I given up I just got lazy and my juggling skills were just a bit lacking for life and posting.   Sorry, I really dropped the ball and I don’t think ignoring my Blog was the best answer!  If we are lucky, we live and learn.  Just some quick updates .  Mom is still living with me as housing prices are a tad high and she is waiting for “DAD” to get her off the Mortgage contract.  Yeah it’s a long story but this is a quick update so “No Drama”  is allowed.

The garden is looking awesome and I managed to start plants this year.  Celery seeds are small rascals and you should be careful how you start them.  Mom says we will need tweezers just to separate the plants.  Never let a person with poor tactile skills start your pots for celery or any other small seeds!   Over all Mom and I are doing darn good.  Mom is enrolled in a Master gardeners class and I added a few more raised beds.  I started a 3 sisters garden last year and it failed.  This year I have new beds in the making for the 3 sisters garden.  I’m also trying out a new drip irrigation system.  Early days on trying a new system but the theory looks sound. We got a new dog and he is young and a terrier.  He has been great as he makes Mom giggle with his antics.

I added 2 new raised beds in the backyard and went hardcore adding edible beds in the front yard beds.  Early days for the “Cole” crops but so far so good!  Pics of the dog and pics of the garden.

Mom calls him Jackson and he is devoted to her.  He is a very sweet little terrier and not yappy.

Jackson the terrier.

I’m building new firewood racks and loading up on fire wood.  This last winter was brutal.  So I’m looking at buying a couple of garbage cans and filling the with sand and salt for next winter.   I thought I was prepared for winter I was wrong!

 

Sort of a short post to say I am back but I should have more3 pics and plans for what I am trying to do in the future.

 

10 Thoughts on Buildings and Shelters…the Dollars and Cents of Starting a Small Farm

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This article was originally published by Jamie on Walkinginhighcotton.net

Today we’re back with another piece in our series of the Dollars and Cents of Starting a Small Farm. This series is meant to give you the tools to think through all the decision-making that goes with starting a small farm, along with some encouragement and creative but realistic tips and ideas for making it affordable.

Buildings and Shelters–or building shelters as we like to do around here!–are a huge part of having livestock on a small farm or homestead. As I’ll talk about later in this post–it’s also one of the more controversial topics. (Who knew?!)

One of our common mantras around here for animal health is “clean and dry, clean and dry.” Keeping your animals clean (meaning no mud!) and dry is at least 60% of the health battle. Mud is a serious enemy on the natural (or trying to be natural!) farmstead. Wet ground is the growing medium for all kinds of bacteria and parasites and being coated in mud lowers body temperatures and keeps an animal’s coat from doing its normal job of warming and shedding weather.

It’s important to realize that “dry” doesn’t necessarily mean that the animal is dry–and this is where we start to get into the controversy!

We believe that God gave a cow/sheep/chicken everything they need to know to be a cow/sheep/chicken. And part of that knowledge is knowing to “come in out of the rain” if they need to. Where a lot of folks start to disagree when it comes to sheltering animals is the “if they need to” part. We believe in doing everything we can to keep the ground dry, and avoiding mud when possible–we tend to use a deep bedding method to get the animals out of the “soup” that becomes common in winter. And we believe in providing wind-breaks and cover for bad precipitation. We don’t believe that you have to force the animals to use it! We don’t “lock” animals in the barn unless we have a sick animal or a very young animal with special needs. Our shelters are all run-in environments and the animals choose whether they need to be in or not.

Just for the record, this drives a lot of folks NUTS. They believe that our animals are out in the weather because we don’t provide enough shelter for them. They can’t conceive of the idea that our cows are bred for hot, humid weather and like 90-100 degree days. And they can’t fathom that our sheep are all wearing huge natural wool coats and don’t mind being in the snow or light to moderate rain.

I don’t say this to make you agree with me, I say it so that you know what perspective we’re working from. As I mentioned in my first post, you always want to be sure that you’re comparing apples to apples. If you believe your sheep are too dumb to use the barn without help (I wouldn’t surprise me if there were a few!) that’s totally your call as the farmer! We also occasionally use weather-forced enclosure for situations like hurricane predictions, etc. If you regularly get blizzards, maybe you need to consider more confinement.

Our sheep don’t mind the snow. It just stacks up on their backs like they’re walking snow piles.

 

Another concern we hear raised often is how much shelter is enough? 2-sides? 3-sides? 4-sides, fully enclosed? We believe that over-sheltering reduces your animals overall weather-hardiness and increases dependence on sheltering, and increases opportunities for shelter-based health issues like pneumonia, respiratory infections from dust and mold, and physical injuries from crowding. We believe the best option is to choose animals that are well-adapted to your location, give them as much fresh-air and sunshine as possible, and a place to get out of the mud, wind, and wet, when needed. Most of our shelters are 3-side run-in style or 2-side run-thru design. This lets the animals get in and out as needed, allows maximum air flow while preventing drafts, and blocks wind, rain, sleet, etc. These are also lighter shelters, so they are more easily portable for our rotational system.

Even our red barn there is portable–although not easily. This is our sturdiest shelter for really bad weather.

Here’s 10 questions to ask yourself before you think about investing in any buildings or shelters…

1. What is the purpose?!

Is it going to be an animal shelter? Hay and feed storage? Tools and equipment? Will it be multi-purpose? We didn’t always set out thinking multi-purpose at first, but a few years in we realized that we’ve re-purposed every shelter, building, lean-to, carport, and shed on our property as least once. Now we always think–how many ways can we use this in the future?

2. Does it need to be mobile?

Remember, keep the long-term in view. We try to make everything possible mobile–that keeps the whole farmstead flexible if our needs or our interests change. What if our kiddos don’t want to do chickens but we invested in a 1/4 acre permanent coop and yard? Mobile also means it has to be lighter–and sturdier! How are you going to haul it around? By hand? By tractor? By lawn mower or 4-wheeler…It’s quite a balance. {smile} Mr. Fix-It loves this part of farming. The creative design and build part. Oh–and here’s a mistake we’ve made (ok, I admit it, more than once!)–if you’re going to move it around, you have to build it so it fits through all your gates!!

3. What else needs to be stored?

This has been a serious frustration for me! Buildings on the farm are not just about the livestock! The more you farm, the more stuff you have (especially if you’re trying to be thrifty and save and reuse everything!) and then suddenly the more stuff you need to store. There are NEVER enough storage buildings and something is always out in the weather that really shouldn’t be. Hay and feed. Equipment–tractors, mowers, trailers, disc, seed spreader, rototillers, garden tools, 4-wheeler…all need to be stored–preferably under cover!–to increase their useful lifespan. Mechanical tools–welder, air compressor, tool boxes, screws and nails, etc. Then you have fencing supplies, chutes and pens, medical supplies, feed troughs, buckets, scoops, carrying crates, seeds and fertilizers, hoses…the list of supplies is just never-ending–and it all has to go somewhere!

4. Are you sure it should go there?

If you are putting something permanent up, are you absolutely, positively, never-a-doubt-in-your-mind, dead-set that it should go there? Our garage and the lean-to off the side of the garage were pretty much set. Those were based on our house and driveway location. That’s where they were going to be. The end. Everything else, including gates and fence-lines, has been debated ad-nauseum and sometimes we still can’t decide. Everything else has been moved around, and probably will be even more in the future. If there’s any way to try a temporary solution for a year or two first, I would suggest it.

5. Are you following your own pattern?

This sort of follows #4…when in doubt, wait it out. Sometimes our “vision” of perfection doesn’t match our real-life farm. We’ve wanted to put up an equipment pole shed for years now. Money is the reason we waited, but I’m glad we did. Why? Because by putting it off a few years, we finally saw our own pattern and the building would have been on the wrong side of the farm! {smile} We kept talking about using part of the back field (see the red barn picture up there) behind the garage for equipment storage–but in actuality, we store our equipment on “equipment row” at the back of our big field and we use the garage spot for animal handling, lambing, sick pens, and lamb harvest. Now we’re talking about just putting up the shed over our existing “row.” If your sheep are always in the pasture, do you really need a barn by the house?

Here’s our standard field shelters for the sheep. They move from field to field as needed.

 

6. Is this practical?

Look, all farmers love big, old, musty, two-story barns. It’s part of the homesteading heart! But usually they’re just not practical–from a money or a design standpoint. If you’re lucky enough to have one I’m sure you’re finding ways to use it. But if you don’t, there’s probably a lot of other, more practical solutions to your storage needs. On a small farm or homestead, practical usually means the most use for the least money. As everything else, this means over the long-term. Sometimes more up-front costs to get the most use, is the least money in the long-run. And don’t forget to think about maintenance when you’re thinking about cost!

We use metal “hoop” shelters the most right now. They need almost no maintenance and last a really long time. We’re also able to find the pieces used at auctions (our sheep huts are made from “useless” pieces of a bigger structure!) because they last long enough to be resold. They’re big enough for our sheep, but small enough to be moved around easily with the tractor. They keep off the wind, rain, and snow and provide shade. And they can be bedded with straw to keep the animals off the wet ground and provide warmth. The open ends mean there’s no drafts, plenty of ventilation, and easy exits if someone spooks. Our red barn was our biggest building investment other than our garage, and it’s been worth it to have that sturdy shelter and small field to use during hurricane season. But it needs to be painted as we speak–again.

7. Can it be expanded?

Most farms grow. Once you’re in, you’re hooked! {smile} When you’re thinking about buildings and shelters, a lot of times you have to think small because of your budget. But if you invest wisely, it will be easy to grow later. Our huts could be bolted together, we could add more as we get more animals, or take one out of use and store it if we have fewer animals. On permanent structures you can add lean-tos. Our garage has one on the left, and we could add one off the right or the back if we wanted too. If you put a building right up against a fence, ditch, etc. then you’ve limited your expansion options.

8. Am I reinventing the wheel here?

To be thrifty, sometimes it’s best just to copy someone that’s already been there, done that. Honestly, we don’t do that very often because Mr. Fix-It enjoys the creative part–and that usually works for us because he’s very good at it. But there’s nothing wrong with copying someone’s success story. In his Pastured Poultry Profits book, Joel Salatin encourages folks to just copy what he did–not make mistakes he’s already made and corrected for no good reason. If you’re an inventor, creator, builder, Mr. Fix-It yourself, then I would encourage you to study what other folks have done before drawing your own design. Mr. Fix-It loves to check out YouTube and Google images (he’s a visual learner) to see other ideas before jumping into his own. Our new chicken house project is a conglomeration of other ideas and my husbands handiwork in re-using some greenhouse materials we acquired from a friend.

9. Do I have something I can use?

I formed this as a question because that’s how I’m writing the post. But actually, what this should say is SAVE EVERYTHING YOU CAN. {smile} Anything can be used on a small farm. I read about someone using an old truck camper shell/cap as a chicken field pen. I’ve read about folks using pallets to make animal pens. We used a dog kennel as the basis for our duck pen (which we’re using today as a chicken pen–remember, reuse!). We’re repurposing a cast-off greenhouse frame into a chicken house right now. We salvaged an old pop-up camper frame to make our old chicken house mobile. Our field pen/chicken tractor is tin from an old shed someone took down and shared with us because they knew we’d use “stuff like that.” As I mentioned last winter, we have piles of “farm junk” around because we try to keep anything that might be use-able in the future. This is part of being thrifty.

Here’s a picture of the back of our garage, with the back of the lean-to, and then the run-thru carport that we use for, well, anything we need. Lambing shed, lamb harvest shed, tractor shed, hay storage shed…it’s truly multi-purpose.

 

10. Do I care how it looks?

Ok, I saved this for last because I hate it, but it’s really important. The fact is that sometimes “practical” or “frugal” can start to look like crap. There, I said it. This bothers Mr. Fix-It much more than it bothers me. I’m not one to care what other folks think–but this has come to matter to me for a couple reasons that I think you should consider…

  • What your husband/partner/significant other/rest-of-the-family think is important. If they (or you!) hate rolling up in the driveway because the place looks like an abandoned farm scene from Chainsaw Massacre, well, you’re going to have issue with all kinds of other stuff. Your place should bring warmth and joy and pride, and home to your heart, or you’re not going to have the heart it takes to keep going when the going gets tough.
  • What your customers think is important. If you want customers, you have to consider what they think. Half your job is to educate them, and half your job is to meet their expectations. They’re expecting something from Old McDonald’s or Mother Goose. You probably can’t give them that, but you can probably meet them in the middle. If all you’re offering is Chainsaw Massacre, they probably won’t be back.
  • What the public thinks is important. I’m going to try to not be ugly here, but when it comes to farm animals, most people are ignorant and judgmental. If folks think your place looks like crap, they are going to think your animals are treated like crap, and they’re going to call someone and complain and you’re going to have a big headache. More people I know have gotten rid of their livestock because of neighbor complaints than because of financial issues. Most are completely unfounded and due to simple ignorance, but there it is. Most are not forced to get rid of their animals, they just get tired of feeling harassed.

Here’s the thing, you, as the farmer, need to know what you’re about. You need to know what your animals need and what they don’t. You need to know what you’re doing and why-or why not. You need to keep all these things in mind, think carefully, and make the best decisions for your place–and be ready to stand by them. It’s just part of farming in today’s world.

Here’s the kiddos bedding down the cow hut–bigger than the sheep huts, but same design. Pretty much any animal could use it, or we could use it for feed or equipment storage.

 

Source : www.walkinginhighcotton.net

 

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Ugh, got very sick over the weekend

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I don’t know if it was food poisoning or a very bad allergic reaction to some peppers in a TV dinner but I was very ill for about four days and I’m still recovering. It was all in my guts and very unpleasant so I won’t go into details, but I did learn a few lessons.

As long as you can stay hydrated and keep liquids down you will probably do better staying home resting rather than going to the ER or hospital. Stay with mild foods, saltine crackers, broths, boiled or scrambled eggs and toast as your tummy can handle it. My stomach actually handled things like “Otter Pops” or the cheap sort generic pop-sicles for taste and hydration. I got some brand Popsicle on sale and they seem to have an off flavor and texture that did not set well with my tummy.

Another thing I like about Otter pops is you can store them in the box and freeze a few at a time or as needed. While I will be  50 years old in October, some how those Popsicle seem to be the thing for me when I get sick. I believe they will be a great thing for all kids when sick to help keep them hydrated and help reduce fevers. Of course you could make your own little posicles ahead of time with some juice, saran wrap, toothpicks and Ice cube trays if you plan on getting sick. I seldom plan on getting sick so I never have those little things done ahead of time.  Keep a few bottles of Ginger ale on hand/in the pantry for Nausea and tummy upsets. Both Mom and I agree on Shasta ginger ale seems to be the best for us. Mom’s tummy trouble is stress and her IBS acting up. Mine was I was just sick, but I like the flavor of the Shasta ginger ale better than Canada Dry. I want to make a bit of ginger beer(almost no alcohol) for my pantry home remedies but I doubt I will get to it until this fall.

Some good news, I am feeling better and I got all of the misters and fans set up for the 100+ degree heat will have for the next several days.  Most of the garden is handling the heat well but we are still tweaking stuff for watering and protecting the plants.  I spent good money on a thick soaker hose and the hose has already blown out in less than 2 weeks. I have a good oscillating sprinkler I bought last year and Mom loves it for watering the garden.  I’m now working on adding quick disconnect to all hoses as I hate the idea of hoses across walkways that could trip us up and cause us to fall.

The little 12 volt fan and B&D power supply are starting to show their age and getting a bit worn out. Both are at least 10 + years old and cost under $25.00 when I bought them used.  Remember 12 volt batteries will go bad even if you baby them along. Fans will fail if you use them a lot and I use fans year round to circulate warm air in winter and cool air in summer. So, I need to start adding backup fans and new power packs that are simple to use and charge.

That is all there is to preparing or survival. Try stuff out when you can afford to fail because everything still works at this time. Now is the time to test your summer preps/survival strategies even if it setting up a tent for the first time in the backyard.  Have you set up a camp cot? I can’t speak for everyone but adding that bar at the end of the cot to make it tight needs a lever and a bit of strength.  Are you using air mattresses to sleep on?  Have you aired them up physically and slept on them?  Have you used that “dutch oven” to cook over a fire or know how to position your solar panel for max energy or your solar oven for max heat?  Now is the time to test those things out.

Even if the test is a failure. I bet you will learn something even if it is something does not work.  Learning what does not work is a great lesson and critical to survival.

Added marigolds and lettuce greens

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The leaf lettuce is not doing great so I got some of the last lettuce plants at the home improvement and planted them in a large 18 gallon plastic “party bucket” that I have under a bit of shade on the cool side of the house. The plants were very root bound. In fact I had to break off and cut a lot of roots that matted up via the pot’s drainage holes.  Sorry to say I paid full price for these less than stellar starter plants, but beggars can’t be choosers. I got a few plants a a great price so it all sort of balances out in the long run.

I found a great little 6 pack of marigolds for $2.98 that finishes up planting those flowers that may help some of the bugs attacking my squash and melons.  Mom’s Lima bush beans were hit hard by insects and we are not sure if those beans will make it. It’s early days yet but it looks like the 3 sisters garden is doing well, though we are adding a little bit of soil to the mounds and some wood mulch once the pole beans get a bit more growth.

I have all kinds of plans for the front yard beds, but that is a lot of work and just keeping things weeded and trimmed back takes a lot of my energy. I planted 6 plants of mossy rose/ Potaluca as a replacement to the morning glory and weeds I’m trying to eliminate in my rose beds. I weeded but I’m pretty sure I will need to weed again as I did not get at the root of the problem.  It is a start and planting the mossy rose is a start on controlling the weeds. Rome was not built in a day and no gardener eschewed chemicals for a more natural approach to gardening saw results fast. It is slower but I want to build good soil and make a “perma-culture”/ food forest. Container gardening and raised beds do sort of work with that concept.  It ain’t easy or cheap but is doable if you have a bit of land and time.

If you are like me and planted your garden sort of late and you feel like you cheated buying plants.  Now is the time to start your succession plantings from seed. Start thinking about planting root crops that can last into late fall or need a bit of a nip of frost to set the sugars and sweetness of root crops.  What is the worst that can happen?  The plants don’t grow for some reason.  Keep trying to grow stuff and learn what works and what does not work for you.

You and I know that gardening is simple that does not mean that gardening is easy. Any moron that thinks they can throw out a few seeds on bare ground / dirt and get veggies or fruit is in for a rude awakening.

 

My budget survived the Senate gun bills

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I’m glad that the Senate gun control/no fly secret lists bill did not pass.  Now I can go back to my original layaway payment plan and get the little carbine paid off about mid July. I held back a bit of cash just in case the bills started moving forward so I will stock up a little on ammo instead.  This is a great example why you need to have a bit of savings or as I call it “Mad Money” stashed away for these sort of things that can happen in an instant and are completely out of your control. Start with saving a $5.00-$20.00 bill in your wallet or purse.

I have worked very hard to reduce my cost of living each month. Paying off debt, not getting a newer vehicle or credit card simply because I could “make the monthly payment”. In many ways I have hit the income sweet spot as I don’t pay income taxes and I am eligible for some government programs. I don’t qualify for EBT, Energy assistance or an Obama phone. Not paying income taxes is a huge help to my budget. Though I still have to pay all of the other taxes and fees imposed by government.

Garden Update:  The garden is doing much better than I expected even with the late start this year. I added some of the Scott’s Earth-gro wood mulch to the 4ft. x4 ft. bed and that took about 2/3rds of a two cubic foot bag. I also added a few marigolds to both garden beds though I need to add a few more to try and stop some of the bugs.  I will do a direct seed of some nasturtiums around the garden borders that might keep some of the bugs out of the garden.  Plus the nasturtiums flowers are edible and have sort of a black pepper flavor. This year I have not tried to plant something of every bit of space so the squash and cukes can spread out and I’m going vertical with climbing plants. The garden this year is a lot easier to work for me and Mom.Now Mom and I were behind the power curve getting plants in the garden but I am going to try succession planting with seeds. I want to add in a few root vegetables like turnips and they can be planted in late summer.  So even if you cheated buying nursery plants you still can try and grow from seed with succession planting.

Albertsons is going to have a great sale on meat this week. $1.88 for hamburger  though it is 70/30 so there is a bit of fat. That isn’t all bad as fat equals flavor.  So get out your meat loaf and meat ball recipes or simply brown some hamburger and can or dry it.

I don’t think we will see an economic crash this summer. I do think it is possible this fall in the Sept-Oct. time frame. There is not a darn thing I can do about it except prepare.  Turkey can be had for 99 cent per pound and silver is still under $20.00 per oz.  Prepping at least for me is always a work in progress.  While I may be wrong on timelines I tend to be vary right about saving money.

 

I think I got the last two tomatillo plants in canyon county and lessons learned

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The garden is doing great though we were a bit late starting some of the plants.  Actually I’m a bit amazed by how well the plants are doing via a the mix of sown seeds and some early starter plants. Today the pole beans are starting to sprout up through the ground of the 3 sisters garden experiment. I wish I could have started the plants in May, but I think the garden will be okay.  FYI for those that want to use straw as mulch.  While straw is a great mulch it does not break down quickly and if you use a small electric rototiller the straw binds up in the tines.  Because of that we are going to try out the Scott’s earth grow as a mulch for the garden beds as a weed blocker and for retaining water.  For my soil and the tools I have to work with using a bark mulch is the best solution for me and my garden.  But if straw works for your garden, go for it.  Every garden is special and it takes a few tweaks to make your garden grow.

Next job is eliminating Morning glory plants. While Morning glory is a pretty plant it climbs/spreads and strangles other plants I like around the homestead. Eliminated a weed or bad plant is good but you have to put in a new plant that chokes out the bad weed.  I’m going to try out some Mossy rose/Portulaca for my front yard beds as it is low growing and only a perennial (reseeds it self) for ground cover. If it works great if not it should not be to hard to replace next year.  Plus mossy rose is drought tolerant.

Some good new from the US senate on gun control laws and voting. It seems there was a bit of a backlash and the senators feared the American people might vote them out. I put a little 9mm carbine on layaway and I think I can get it off of layaway next week, rather than waiting on the Senate voting to take rights away from US citizens.

Things are getting “sporty” my friends and you need to be aware and prepared TODAY, just in case things go south.  If you are thinking of burying all your guns you need to dig them up.  Though I don’t have a problem if you bury “extra guns” as backup.

For this summer Home depot has a battery powered Ryobi fan for sale for under $40. 00 with an 18 volt lithium battery. These little Ryobi fans are great for cooling both people and animals.  I like the water misters and pump on the $80. 00 dollar model, but I recommend you get this fan or something similar to move both hot an cool air that is NOT dependent on the electric grid.

 

Sorry I have been a little lax in posting

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The heat wave broke today and 85 degrees feels like heaven. The house has been cool and I think the new roof and added vents were a big part contributor to keeping the house cool. The new kitchen ceiling fan has also made a huge difference moving the cool air though the house.

We were a bit late getting the garden started again this year what with all the home improvements and getting stuff painted.  Of course just for fun, I had to change the garden layout and try some new ways of planting stuff since life can be too simple for me. /sarcasm

We did buy plants and then had to spread out tarps to protect the plants when it got hot in the afternoon. Over all I think we may only lose two squash and one cucumber to the heat wave and I had to replace a watermelon plant but I think it was me that screwed up planting it and not the heat wave burning the plant.  The squash plant was a bit wimpy to begin with and the heat wave finished it off.

This year I have invested in heavy duty Tomato cages and so far the cages will hold a tarp with a couple of clothes pin to protect the plant from the sun.  I know it costs more money up front but I think investing in a higher quality tomato cage is worthwhile in the long run.  Plus the new cages have a protective coat and in different colors so you can use the cages for different types tomato plants that you will recognize at a glance.

While I am searching for excuses on why I am late for planting a garden. I am looking at how hard last year’s harvest was on myself and Mom as everything had to be processed at the same time. Now I have planted a sweet corn that seems to be doing well and should be ready to harvest about the middle of August. I have a pop corn and dent/flour corn that should be harvested around September and the corn can be left to dry on the stalk. My pole beans can be left to dry on the vine and winter squash can be harvested, stored in a cool dry area and then you can take a bit of time to process them. I did not start my garden with harvest times in mind but I think that timing and different plants will work better for me in the long run.

I’m excusing myself on my garden but it may just work out when august and September rolls around and I have limited physical energy to work processing the harvest.

More good news My golden raspberry is producing fruit this year. The Quinalt strawberries are growing great but they put out one of the smallest berries I have ever seen, though it it is a nice sort of nice tart tasting strawberry. My Black berry is growing great in its new spot. I have blossoms but I doubt I’ll get fruit this year.

I know this may sound like I’m getting excited about plants. That is because I am excited. I spent several years trying to grow strawberries, raspberries and blackberry plants and I watched them all die. I doubt, I will get a more hand-full of berries this year but it is a success in my books.

One thing that annoys me is people who claim to prep, have a few packets of seeds and think they will start a garden after the SHTF by just throwing a few seed in or on the ground and it will provide food for them.  Gardening, maintenance and harvesting a garden takes a lot of effort.  Please start a small garden of a few herbs, tomatoes and some peppers, those are simple to grow for a new gardener. Now my sweet corn is looking good so far in spite of the heat.  This is my first year growing corn so I expect I won’t have a great harvest.  The garden only augments my food supply it does not replace my stored food.  Yet…..

It doesn’t matter if you start with an acreage or a small herb garden in a container, you must start growing some of the food you eat if you want to be prepared and some what self-sufficient.

 

 

 

Painting is work but the Kill-Z is done in the kitchen

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Wow,  what a difference adding some paint to the drywall in the kitchen has made on how it looks.  Mom and I worked about three hours painting Kill-Z to the ceiling and walls. I had taped off most every thing prior to staring the primer paint job so it went quickly adding the paint.  FYI working with Kill-Z paint is it is thick as it is designed to cover up stains so it took a couple of passes with the roller to get down into the drywall texture. I was a surprised that the Kill-Z paint did not have a strong odor, though it is noticeable if you don’t have good ventilation and air flow.  The Kill-Z paint dried within a couple of hours. So a person could primer with it in morning and then add more paint/topcoat in the afternoon.  While I’m not a huge fan of a sterile white color I’m amazed just how good the kitchen looks just using the Kill-Z white paint.  The kitchen looks clean now and the lights look brighter compared to no paint and smoky walls. I don’t have a huge kitchen but I was a bit surprised we got the ceiling and walls all primed with just over a gallon of Kill-Z.

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Before

As you can see the difference is pretty striking on how clean things look after adding texture and paint. I’m leaving most of the painter’s tape in place as I will be adding a semi-gloss off white to all of the walls and ceiling. Semi-gloss makes cleaning the walls a lot easier in a kitchen.  You can see that Mom and I took down the last metal remnant of the dropped ceiling and that also made a big difference in how clean the walls and ceiling look now. Last but not least, the kitchen feels more open and inviting.

I would recommend buying Kill-Z paint to use as a primer especially in a kitchen with all the grease and dirt that gets on walls. If you are a smoker, the Kill-Z will  cover the smoke/tar stains along with protecting your dry wall. I think buying the Kill-Z and using it as the primer will cost less in the long run compared to applying double coats of an expensive paint. At worse the I will get better paint coverage at the same price.

The kitchen still needs another coat of semi-gloss on the walls and ceiling but Mom and I are going to take at least a day off before we tackle that project. This works as Wednesday is shopping day and we are stocking up on meats and paper goods. I will add a few more gallons of semi-gloss paint and a couple more tarps for the wood piled on sale at True value. After the tarps are in place over the firewood I will start removing the roof that is basically rotting/warping wood over the wood pile area.

I can’t afford to restore Casa de Chaos to full Craftsman type home.  I think I can incoperate some 1930-1950’s decorating design ideas I like to make the house a happy, warm and inviting place to be.

 

Weather has been less than optimal but we still got a lot done.

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We got hail this week but most of the plants seemed to do all right despite the pounding. Most of my plants are somewhat protected in containers, so damage was minimal.  We are sort of behind the power curve on planting the garden but so far that is not a bad thing as the weather has been a bit wonky this year.  So far the plants  seem to be doing well and my focus has been adding in grass, making my pathways and a backyard that works for me and Mom.  Mom and I are doing a lot of basic yard maint. and cleaning up the grape vines has been a challenge this year since I let them get over grown along with the lilacs and a couple of or bushes. We got a lot of of the overgrown stuff cut back but we still have a lot of work to do on cutting back the grape vines.  I’m a little behind on putting the garden and it is rainy so rototilling the soil is just not on until the soil dries a bit. I’m adding a new bed to the front yard for edible flowers and annuls that just add a bit of color. The flower bed will be done in red landscape timbers to sort of fit the “craftsman home” effect.

True Value hardware is having a great sale for most of the things I need. I’m buying up Semi-gloss paint for the house as that makes the walls easy to clean and they have tarps on sale that will finish up protecting the wood pile from rain yet the tarps can be folded up to let the wood pile dry. The wood overhead cover is rotting and boards that support the roof are warping big time.  Two more tarps will cover the firewood and I can start cutting out the the bad roof over the wood pile.  I will be able to afford enough paint to cover most of the house with colors that work with a Craftsman type house.

I just bought a 10 gallon air compressor/oil type from Harbor Freight and a basic tool set up. This air compressor should be a large enough for most basic jobs around the house. I bought a small paint spray gun for paint but until I test it, I’m not sure about trusting it despite the reviews.

Mom always see what has not been done. I see how much we have got done.  Actually Mom gets down on herself for not doing more around the place. I think she is outstanding in her work cleaning up the grape vines and helping me trim up trees and bushes.  I suppose it goes back to her being a recovering Catholic.  It’s guilt imposed via childhood. I see the glass always full, It just might be full of air which is not helpful at times. I think we are doing great! The little “Casa de Chaos” got a new roof, a lot of work on the yard.  Hell we can run my washer without running a garden hose to the shower. We have grass for the dogs and great paths that are a pleasure to walk rather than uneven dirt that could twist an ankle of knee. I think we are doing pretty well over all.

The back yard is finished?

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Well the back yard is finished as far as adding the last wood mulch path/section. I can’t do much in the area that contains Mom’s chickens, but I have to say the birds are doing an outstanding job on working the compost pile and the egg count is holding steady despite the fact the chickens are getting a bit old.  Setting up the 4 foot high temporary fence that funnels the bird to the compost pile is working out much better than installing a temporary fence to keep the chicken out of the garden area.

The sod is doing okay but I have noticed some drying out of the grass at the seams and where I sort of cut and patched in sod in odd geometric areas.  Also a couple of my sprinklers did not do a great job of watering the sod.  If you add sod or grass seed you will need lots of water daily to get the grass established.

Now the first area I put down new grass seed is getting a nice green look. A few things I recommend.  Buy seed that is good for your zone. while some grass seeds produce a soft lawn like a carpet. I went with a fescue blend or garden seed and the sod was a mix of Bluegrass and fescue grasses  Also take in consideration if you have full sun or shady areas. Water daily or perhaps twice a day. Improve/Augment  your soil before you add grass seed.

I don’t avoid walking on the sod as it  has been in placed fairly well, but you don’t want to walk on any new grass seed areas. Most of the area I’m growing grass needed some soil augmentation. Adding in soil and compost may cost a few dollars and is a pain in the butt.  The better you make your soil, the better results you will see in the long term. Once some grass has grown and then I gently rake in new grass seed.  Over seeding a couple of times  has worked very well for me.

I’m getting rid of three of the raised bed gardens as I think the garden section of the yard has fairly good soil after the break down of the mulch for 2 years and all the stuff I have added via compost and manure.  Don’t get me wrong Raised beds and container garden worked great for me when I had terrible soil. Now my soil is better so I get to try out a new system for the garden area.

Will my new concept of the garden area work?  I haven’t a clue, but if it does work taking care of the garden should be simple and less work in the long term.

 

The last of the contractors are gone and all jobs are done.

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Demon Murphy showed up on the last job with the drywall but things are still working out very well. I give most of the contractors an A+ on the job and a B grade goes to the contractor that broke the drain hose/ PVC connection while pulling out the washer to get at the drywall job.  There was also a little over spray but Mom got it all cleaned up while it was damp.

We need to paint and I’m going with Kill-Z as my primer/sealer. Now that the contractors are done with their work, I need to paint. Once basic paint work is done I will post some pics. Overall I have had good luck picking contractors and the city of Nampa has a few more good solid contractors for the city. I got at least 3 bids for every job, several contractors I did not pick got into the city system for future jobs.  It may sound a bit silly but all contractors were doggie tested and approved.  I think animals pick up on body language and the pets don’t get faked out by those that talk a “good game”.  Even the city of Nampa person was amazed about how great the people/contractors worked out. Well if my dog doesn’t like you. I’m going to give you some extra scrutiny. If my dog likes you, only normal levels of scrutiny.

While I don’t think I’m all that special. I think the city of Nampa folks likes me since I continue to make my yard great. It was a bit funny as a guy from the office asked where I got my cistern, mulch, soil and sod for the back yard project. I’m not alone on working towards some self-reliance. Every person that gets prepared or works towards self-reliance is one less target and one more potential ally.

Laying mulch pathways is not easy or cheap. It is a great way to add organic material to bad dirt and star building a topsoil as well as conserving water on lawns & gardens. Mulch is great for leveling dirt paths and provides a soft cushion if you fall.  Hell just not worrying about twisting an ankle is worth all of the paths I have set done.

I’m at the lower end of the economic food chain and I got all this work done with some help of the city government and I’m sure some federal money was involve. These things can work and we should not throw the “baby out with the bath water”.  These sort of jobs need to be focused on people that will improve them selves and not just looking for another handout.

I probably added a few grand of value just by cleaning up the stuff that was out of code. But I have seen this house valued as low as $55 grand  and as high $135 grand.  It’s just my little house I will make the best I can so it works for me. I ain’t looking to sell or take out a heloc.

Using Landscape timber, weeding and the little garden cart

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For the border around the rock entrance way and chicken pen I used landscape timbers rather than the concrete borders. My reasoning is both Mom and I have bad knees and we tend to drag our feet rather than not so tall to step over stuff, especially when we get tired from working on the yard.  The landscape timbers have a rounded edges, so we don’t tend to to catch a toe or foot that can make us fall. The landscape timber I’m referring too is the stuff you see and home improvement stores that they use with concrete blocks to make a small border fence around displays outside the store. Mom fed the chickens and had no problems with navigating the new wood borders even with her stiff knee but both she and I can have a few problems with the scalloped edged concrete edge borders when we are tired.

I cut into the bare dirt in order to place the timbers so they would be tall enough to keep the rock and mulch in place, but so tall they would trip us up as we work in the backyard. I know most people don’t break up a yard in sections but I’m very pleased how the mulch pathways and different sections are working out. While I’m breaking up the yard into sections I’m planing to eliminate several of the raised beds for the garden.  The mulch has broken down and has improved the clay soil beyond my wildest dreams. I will be eliminating 3 of the 4 raised beds and going with a bit more traditional garden rows this year.

The areas that have grass seed got weeded and the grass is growing. So far I have added grass seed several times and I am water those area a lot more than I thought would be needed. But we do have grass growing along with some weeds. Mom helped me clean out the weeds in the backyard strips along the borders/mulch.  Grass seed needs to be watered daily and be prepared to reseed every week until the grass gets starting out. Speaking for myself it seemed the grass seed was not growing for a week or two and then it suddenly started growing. Remember the grass will look a bit thin and it will take some time to fill in bare areas.

Mom and I did a bit of weeding and I love the new little garden cart I got at Fred Meyer. I was still a bit sore in the lower back, but my knees were saved from the pain squatting to pull weeds. I really like as I can toss all my small gardening tools in the little garden wagon.

Do your best to make all jobs as easy as possible because if the SHTF you will be working hard just to do basic stuff to survive. Mama nature does not care about me being a Vet or being disabled. I have to be creative as much as possible because this test is a Pass/Fail. You live you pass this test.

Sod is finished Huzzah!

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Before
After
After 2

This is the before and after on the sod project. The rest of the grassy areas will be done with grass seed. One mistake I made with the grass seed was not keeping the ground wet. I’m now watering the grass seed areas daily and it has helped get the new grass areas started growing. I will be using landscape timbers as a border on the right and at the rock entry area at the back gate. The last job will be adding in more mulch on the right  and that should keep down the weeds and break down to add organic material to the dirt.

Mom did a great job on cleaning up the grape vines and the alley way. Now I can add the sedums, plant the sunflowers and add more mulch to keep down the weeds and hopefully the new plants will start choking out the weeds. Just killing or pulling weeds is not enough if you want to have good soil and growing spaces. You got to help mama nature by replacing the weeds with good plants.

Now that we have the backyard mostly finish mom and I can concentrate on the garden area.

I started laying out the sod

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Laying out sod isn’t cheap but it seems to be a good choice for the small area I want grass for the doggies. The area I’m laying the sod is 30 feet by 12 feet so about 20 rolls of sod is enough to cover the area.  I laid out 12 rolls of sod today and another 8 rolls should finish up the job. The other areas along the borders I have planted grass seed and while slower, it is also a lot easier on the budget. Prepping/building up your soil is critical for both grass seed and sod along with keeping the ground, grass seed and sod damp so the grass can take hold and put down good roots.  The internet has great info about how to lay out sod as well as calculating the cost. You will get sod for about 30 cents per square foot and if you have poor soil figure about 30 cents per square foot to improve the soil. 65 -75 cents per square foot is a good guesstimate for the cost of sod but if you have time for growing grass from seed you can half that cost.  Of course if you buy sod in bulk you will probably get a better price.  If you have someone else install the sod you should double the price because of labor.  I think most people could handle laying sod as a DIY project and save some money at least if you want to sod a small area and not a whole yard.

For grass seed or sod you will need to prepare the soil.  A de-thatching rake is perfect for cutting into bare dirt to make it easier for the grass to put down roots.  Also a de-thatching rake is great for keeping a lawn healthy.  I’m adding a lot of top soil as well as some Steer manure/compost mix to augment the clay soil I have in the backyard. Mom’s chickens are doing a great job turning over the compost pile, but I’m still learning the best way to incorporate the compost in my yard work and building the soil. If you decide on sod, lay out the rolls off set sort of like tile so the “seams” of the sod are not all parallel or you will get gaps.  Plan your yard to make all yard work as easy and quick as possible while being inviting.  Using mulch and rock to block weeds, creating borders and paths ways will stop you from creating bad/dead areas in your lawn plus cut down on weeding or using a weed wacker around trees that may cut into the trunk and give an opening to bad bugs. While I’m cheating by adding sod for a quick lawn area I’m also looking at what the yard will look like in the future as well as how functional it is for ease of work.

A few things I noticed about laying out sod. The dogs love having the grassy area and have not done as much digging where I have planted grass seed in other areas. By adding mulch and now the sod we have several nice soft areas that are a pleasure to walk on and will help cushion falls. This is a great thing considering my handicap and works well for anyone with weak bones.  A big plus for me is I’m leveling my backyard and no longer fear twisting an ankle then falling down on hard soil or concrete paths. Mulch paths help retain water and healthy grass will help a lot blocking any weed growth.  Healthy plant growth really cuts down on the mud the dogs bring in. Last winter was a nightmare of mud because I had so much bare ground. Gosh if I had kids it would have ten times worse.

One last thing. If you have a clay soil don’t add sand for drainage as you will make a terrible concrete. Add organic material such as a wood mulch or compost. This is a slower method but after the mulch/compost breaks down over the winter you will have better soil for plants and or a garden.  Using sand for leveling if building a stone wall, deck or garden bed borders is okay. Building good soil can take years depending on your dirt.  Remember if you have lots of weeds your soil is probably missing something. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to experiment with solutions. The solutions may not work but at least you will have learned something practical and not just based on theory.

Don’t be afraid to screw up as that is how you learn. The school of hard knocks may seem a little expensive but it is still a lot cheaper than a college degree and you get to try out both theory and practical applications of your knowledge.

 

Roof is done

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I could not believe how quickly the roofers got the job done.  From the time the the truck delivered the shingle to when the roofers left about 8.5 to 9 hours. The clean up was good and I only had a couple of plants sort of bent over in the front yard beds.  I don’t know a lot about roofs but what little I picked up everything looks good. The roofers added a couple more vents so this summer things should be cooler in the house.

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Another nice touch is all my gutters got cleaned out so the roof area is pretty much ready for fall. That was the biggest job and all that is left is getting the Kitchen ceiling taped and textured.

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The light is good right now and I expect once the ceiling is finished it will get better overall.

Here are a couple of better pictures of the Back yard work so far. After I add the sod next week I will post up a few more pictures.

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You can see the tree ring I did with a bit of small pebbles around the apple tree. The grass sod will be on the left hand side of the border so the pups will have a nice grassy area in the back yard. The back yard is starting to come together for this summer.

 

 

April showers are good!

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Had a good rain and the weather is going to be a bit unsettled all week. Another wind storm is coming through should finish off all of the tree shedding stuff.  The rain barrel and cistern added more water.The cistern is over 50 gallons and the last rain barrel is about 3/4ths full.  Once the windstorm passes I can clean out the gutters again and trim off all of the dead tree limbs. Mom can’t wait to break out the little chainsaws and get to work on trimming up the bigger stuff in the backyard. The weather forecast this week looks good for more cleaning up of the grape vines.

I’m going to pull down the temporary fence around the container garden since the chickens seem to be happy in the small fenced off area that includes the compost pile. I can’t believe how much work the birds have done “turning over” just by scratching around in the compost pile a couple of hours per day.  This a win/win as the birds get what they want in bugs and I get the piled turned over with minimal physical effort from me.

I’m going to add a some sod to the grass areas I have already prepped with soil and steer manure. When I pulled the little stone pavers for the back gate entry way I noticed that earthworms were starting to migrate to the mulch areas. I have also noticed the water retention of the bad soil areas seems to be getting better as there is not as much puddling of water. I will be moving a few things around as I’m trying to be flexible enough to work with Mama Nature. I have been surprised by how my dogs use the mulch pathways, compared to the sidewalks or just dirt areas for getting around and where they poo. While I have not walked across the mulched pathways with bare feet. The difference compared to walking across concrete or even soil/ hard pan is significant. If you fear falling for what ever reason. I would recommend adding mulched path ways to your yard. Plus once you lay out a basic layer of wood mulch topping it off every year of two does not cost a lot of money. Like most things the startup costs can be a little high, but maintaining it is low cost. Especially considering all the benefits you get on improving soil and water retention immediately.

I’m adding some “Dragon’s Blood” sedum ground cover to the alley way garden area along with some sun flowers.  My hope is adding these new plants will start to overwhelm the “cheat grass” that is sprouting up.  I see the sun chokes are starting to put out new growth  when I planted them last year.  At this point of time I’m not harvesting the sunchokes as I want them to spread and help choke out the weeds. I have to say the “black walnut leaf” killer mulch did a great job but I did not have a good plan for replacement plants this spring. The low growing sedum and hopefully the mossy rose will re-seed this year. That is my alley way garden replacement plan for the weeds this year.

I dropped the ball on how well I expected the compost pile to add to my yard but overall I think Mom’s chickens will make a big difference this year in the quality of the compost. I’m doing a lot of work and investing in products for the backyard but I’m seeing some results though it is slower than I anticipated originally. Overall I’m pleased as I am making good progress on a sustainable system despite a few setbacks.

Plumbing work is done, mulch paths sort a firgured out

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While the plumber cut out some dry wall, the new washer box and pipe looks beautiful to me. The hot and cold water lines are labeled correctly and the washer is draining properly!  The only thing left on the washer and dryer area is replacing the feed hoses. My washer hoses are at least 13 years old and those hoses tend to operate under very high pressure.  So, it is better to replace the hoses rather than wait until one of them springs a leak or suffer a catastrophic failure. As far as the drain pipes go the plumber left me with a drain cleaner to use for 5 days to clean out the old gunk and then use monthly to keep the pipes clear.  I really liked how the main office called me saying the plumber was on the way and then called me after the job was done to arrange a time for the city code inspector to check out the work. If you live in the Treasure valley I would recommend  Wickstrom for plumbing and they also do heating and cooling work.

A drywall contractor stopped by to give a bid.  He seemed good about explaining how to  keep costs down on different textures.  While it may sound funny all of the contractors I have been “doggie tested” and approved.  Even the gal at the city remarked on how nice and what a great “vibe” she got off of all of the contractors I have selected for the job. I  don’t think it is silly, as pets pickup on negative energy and body language. While I won’t say I have never gone against my pets, I give extra scrutiny to anyone my pets don’t seem to like or avoid. Usually my pets are correct!

The backyard pathways are changing again and getting smaller and the grass areas are getting larger than I had planned. I don’t mind the change overall because I’m either paying for mulch or adding in more soil and organic matter to improve the soil.  After I get the basic layout done I will post up some pictures of the progress.

One benefit of I did not anticipate was the chickens scratching and mixing up my compost pile after I put up a temporary fence to keep them from eating the grass seed in the back yard. While the birds can be a little messy scratching in the compost pile, they are getting down to the actually  good broken down compost and bringing it up so I can start loading up the wheel barrow to spread around my plants and trees.  I don’t mind creating a larger compost section that is chicken scratch- friendly. The chickens get what they want and I get what I want so it is a win/win situation.

One of the major concepts of making a food forest rather than just a garden is using all of Mother nature to make it self-sustaining and assist you making life simpler if not always easier on the work load. Also you are creating a circular system of growth by using natural by-products to create new growth.  This does not violate the natural law of energy of thermodynamics as you are harnessing the plants use of the sun to create growth and only converting energy to a usable form rather than trying to destroy and replace it.  It maybe easier to get some Round up and kill/sterilize a soil short term.  Long term compost, building a healthy soil is the way to go.  One way or another you are trading money for time. One way sustains its self and the other way is a money rat hole that sustains nothing but the Agri-mega corporations.

Added some soil and borders in the backyard

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I’m having a tough time getting the mulch pathways to work in the large open areas of the backyard.  I’m trying to make the backyard look good and be functional with how I move wood with the wagon to the front yard. One huge bonus of the mulch pathways is I no longer fear twisting and ankle because I now have a level path that has a bit of give compared to hard clay soil. I would recommend mulch compared to sand under toys such as swing sets or around other toys as mulch provides a better cushion and breaks down to add organic matter to clay type soils.  A word of warning if you have small fluffy dogs like the pekes I have, the dogs will drag some mulch into the house for a few days via their fur.  It does get better after a few rainy days or a week or two of watering the mulch will settles into the soil and you have brushed out the loose mulch out of the doggie’s fur.

I’m buying a some soil and steer manure to make some grass growing areas in the backyard. I have to work in small sections at a time rather than just dumping loads of mulch or soil because of cost per paycheck, even though buying bulk is more cost effective.  I can afford to spend $30.00 on a small load of bagged mulch or soil hauled in my mini-van every couple of weeks. I can’t afford a large delivery dumped in my yard via big truck. Plus you must still move all that stuff by hand if you get a dump of soil or mulch.

Mom attacked the grape vines and getting the vines cleaned up seems to be her mission this spring. So far she has filled a large rolling 55 gallon garbage can and two smaller 30 gallon garbage cans.  I cleaned up a few vines earlier this year and it made a difference making the yard seem a bigger.  More sunlight will hit the garden beds with southern sun light.

While I am benefiting from the city of Nampa’s plan to make home improvements to my house. The city of Nampa is getting a bonus of fixing up older homes to meet code and local building contractors get work.  I think this is a great government program implemented at the local level as it is not a hand out but a hand up. Of course I’m a bit weird in that I found contractors and got several bids. Now I have added several good contractors that do good work for the city of Nampa to work with for future projects.  I’m not standing around to be rescued as this loan was only for basic structures and bringing things up to code.

This a great program but I think the government loan is based on your credit score and very few (on the financial edge) homeowners can afford this type of work, don’t have a great credit score.  I was at the bottom of credit scores when I became disabled. I had my Harley Softail go back to the bank and without my parent’s paying off a lot of my debt, I could have lost everything.

I’m better now as I mostly debt free and have backups for critical items.

Electrical work is done. Huzzah!

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If you are in SW Idaho and need some electrical work done I would recommend calling Centerline Electric. I got a bid of $400.00 to install two lights, a ceiling fan and run conduit/ wiring that cut a 45 degree angle between ceiling and wall that was exposed.  I did save a bit of money having the lights and ceiling fan already on hand, but I think $400.00 is a bargain for the job.

The electrician did a great job, not cutting out a lot of drywall in the ceiling and walls. He cleaned up all the loose insulation and saved it in a box to be replaced after the sheet rock guys fix my kitchen ceiling .  One thing I did not think about when installing the ceiling fan and additional lights was the strobe effect from the fan if the lights are to close to the fan blades.  The electrician made sure the lights were not under the fan blades to avoid the strobe light effect. Strobe lights are awesome for the dance floor, in a kitchen not a good idea.  Pic of the kitchen and the ceiling dry wall sucks but the lights and ceiling fan look good for an install.

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Four banks of florescent lighting was replaced by a ceiling fan with a bulb and two flush mount ceiling lights.  Right now I’m using 60 watt incandescent bulbs to light the kitchen. Next week I get paid and will switch out the bulbs of 60 watt equivalent LED bulbs.  Over a month I should start saving money with the LED bulbs compared to the florescent tubes and the light is much warmer and does not flicker. Having good lighting in the kitchen is something I will get all OCD about as I work in my kitchen. The down side is the lights look great but the ceiling dry wall is a mess and we want to get to work making it look good rather than wait for the pros to do it right.  I will wait for the pros.

I finally put together the Costco “Retro chair and step stool”. Overall the instructions were very straight forward and using only a screw driver or a battery powered drill needed for most of assembly.  There are a couple of places that a full-size drill won’t fit for assembly. I used a socket wrench with an adapter. I would say about 90-95% of the chair could be assembled with a basic battery powered drill.  The instructions were very clear and there were plenty of screws to put the chair together.  I have used the chair step stool to add a cover the ceiling work of the electrician cut out and the chair is very solid. If you want a retro look, the Costco chair with steps is a good buy for under $50.00.

How adjusting  the gutter chains worked for the big cistern. I don’t know how much rain fell over night but my 50 gallon rain barrel is about 1/2 full and the big cistern has reached the 50 gallon level.  I suspect about.05 of an inch of rain fell. I am pleased with the rain water collection for the cistern and rain barrels. Now moving the water where it is needed will involve work and trial and error.

There is a dichotomy on fixing up my home. I love my home but the “progressives” are in Boise and are making life less than good in my opinion. I have worked hard to learn skills and become more self-reliant. I don’t want to give up this home as I have worked hard to make it a “sanctuary” in a sea of madness.  I suspect in life there are no good answers just choices you make that are less bad.

Finally a bit of rain

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SW Idaho built a good winter snow pack this last winter but I get a bit nervous when the Spring stays dry. April is supposed to be a wet month so it was nice to see the clouds move in yesterday and drop a little bit of rain. The official amount of rain was .04 of an inch and the 50 gallon rain barrel is about 1/3 filled starting from bone dry.  I’m amazed at how much water a person can collect just by using a rain barrel and the large surface area of a roof.

The large cistern did not collect much rain as I had hoped but I’m still adjusting how the water flows into from the gutter to the cistern. We have more rain forecast this week so the latest adjustments should start adding more water to the big cistern. Next week’s payday will go towards getting some PVC pipe for a gravity fed, drip irrigation for the raised beds and the new 3 sisters garden spots.  I have worked a little bit with PVC but setting up a drip irrigation system will be totally new to me. I still have city irrigation water/ water cans as a backup so the garden should get plenty of water this summer.  I really don’t want to carry water around by hand if I can avoid it as it is hard work!

One thing to be aware of using rain barrels is stagnant water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. One thing I do is add burlap to cover the top of the barrels but you could use window screen material or add a small amount of olive or vegetable oil to the water barrel to keep the mosquitoes from laying eggs and breeding.  While the Zika virus is in the news, limiting Mosquito breeding areas around your home just makes good sense as the bites are very annoying.

This spring we are seeing new birds stop by and grab a quick meal around the chicken pen in the backyard. The little sparrows and finches just love all of the grape vine area along with the flowering quince, holly and lilac trees for safety.  It seems that the both the smaller birds and chickens really like to dust them selves in the areas where I have cut wood and there is sawdust along with the areas where the wood mulch has broken down. I wonder if the “pine oil” helps them get rid of mites, compared to just a dust bath?  So far we have added a couple of ring doves on a regular basis and a male Bob white quail stopped by today.

While many complain about the city critters coming in and eating garden plants. I enjoy the seeing the birds and even squirrels stopping by to grab a snack. Now if I can lure a few of the ducks away from the creek I will have another “potential” food source growing in my yard.

I started the layout of borders for the backyard fountain/bird bath circle in the backyard. This circle area will be filled with mulch and have at least 24 inch wide pathways for my garden cart and myself. Laying out path/walk ways of the food forest recommend at least an 18 inch wide path for moving stuff via wheelbarrow.

In my experience with my disability I recommend a 24-30 inch wide path works better with a garden wagon and neither Mom or myself feel like we have to be extra careful using the first path to avoid tripping or falling down.  A big bonus on filling in the pathways with mulch has been filling in all low spots, holes and places that can twist an ankle.  Plus the mulch pathways cushion old and arthritic joints much better than a hard surface path.

If you can afford it, I think the mulch bed pathways are a better answer than installing concrete sidewalks. Yes the paths must be re-mulched every couple of years but all of water soaks into the ground and helps reduce the overall water required for a lawn/garden/food forest and the mulch breaks down it adds to your soil. Mulch gives and cushions falls much better than concrete or stone paver type paths.  A couple of down sides to a wood mulch path. I don’t think a person in a wheel chair could navigate the paths well compared to a wood or concrete walkway. I have no idea if I can shovel snow off the path or if I want to for moving wood from my wood pile to the wood stove. I’m thinking I need to buy a small  toboggan or sled for hauling wood in winter.

While I don’t like to dwell on my disability it is a fact of my life. We have an ageing population here in the USA and dealing with these issues are coming up a lot for families. Creating a few pathways full of mulch will help oldsters and kids by making a few softer surfaces while we are out playing/working in the yard.  The soil gets built up, there is less storm water run off and people are not so fearful of falls by kids and grandparents.

This is a win/win for mulch in my opinion.  It’s probably just a matter of scale and time to build up really crappy soil that has been abused.  It is simple that does not mean it is easy.

 

I replaced the propane tanks and you don’t have to practice being miserable

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Last summer I did a test cooking one meal a day, usually the evening meal on the propane grill. I figured I cooked at least 90 days worth “dinners” on the grill from May through September and used two, 15 pound tanks you get at the local mega-mart. This was a great test for cooking as I have baseline of how much fuel is needed to cook at least one hot meal per day for at least three months.A major bonus to cooking outside in summer is you don’t heat up your house which saves on your cooling bill.

I replaced the propane tanks today at Lowe’s  on sale for $15.00 each.  This summer’s grilled dinners, will be about $30.00, a bargain even without the savings on cooling costs. I’m using an older Weber model 310 gas grill I got at a yard sale for $15.00. I have a smoker and a charcoal grill with about 200 pounds of Mesquite lump Charcoal for BBQ. While you may not want to grill during the “Zombie Apocalypse” because of the unique aroma of outdoor cooking. My little test proves you can store a couple of propane tanks and cook at least one hot meal per day of real food.

I like propane as a backup fuel for heat and cooking as camp stoves and Mr. Buddy heaters are relatively inexpensive and the Mr. Buddy heaters are fairly safe and efficient heaters to use if your main heating system is out because of a disaster. I did not run my Mr. Buddy heaters while asleep and only used them to get the house warm in the morning and run intermittently through the day if the house got below about 62 degrees F. in my winter tests at 0 degrees F. and 20 degrees F. for a daytime high.  If your home is well insulated and you use the Mr. Buddy heater to warm it to 65-68 Degrees F. your home should maintain at least 45-50 degrees F. in the morning. A little brisk  to wake up too, but no freezing pipes in the house. On average I used about two 1 pound tanks per day or a 15 pound tank over 5-6 days using a Mr. Buddy heater during my tests and that was heating about 1000 square feet of my 1200 square foot home as I shut off the extra rooms during the test.  As a guesstimate for any “minor disaster” lasting two weeks to a month, depending on your climate and season 4-6 propane tanks should be enough for both cooking and heating.  Bonus: you will have a great camping or tailgating setup for the summer and fall!

I know a large portion of the country is still dealing with a late spring snow fall, but now is the time to get your off-grid solutions for summer cooling setup and ready to go. I live in high desert with very low humidity, so misters and fans along with small(5000 BTU) window air conditioners keep my home comfortable.  I don’t know that much about staying cool in a high humidity climate, other than try and do work in the cool of the day and cook outside to keep any heat build up in the house as low as possible. I have added a big  three gallon waterer for the pets and the chickens in the back yard and I have a great battery powered mister/water pump and fan that runs on a Ryobi 18 volt battery that worked great last year for cooling the backyard patio and the chickens in 95 degree F. + heat. The fans are a little pricey at $80.00 but the fan works great for evaporation type cooling off the grid.

I don’t think you have to practice being miserable.  If you do your test correctly misery will happen on it’s own and all you have to do is adapt to the new misery level.  I’m not preparing or becoming self-reliant because I want to be miserable if the SHTF.  I want to be somewhat comfortable, safe and know were my next meal of “real” food is coming from and how it is cooked. I want to know my water is safe to drink and the only way I know how to do that is to do the work myself as I don’t trust the PTBs.

I want to know I can cook a meal, stay warm in winter and cool in summer without depending on the local utility company for all my power, or hope the local Mega-mart got in a shipment in the last week.  I will never be totally self-reliant but, I can keep working on being as self-reliant as possible everyday.

 

The first section of mulch pathway is done

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I went to D&B farm store to get the last border/edgers section done  for the first mulch pathways. About 24 inches width seems to work great for my garden wagon and my wheelbarrow for moving equipment along with other soil and garden stuff.

The first section of the mulch path is finished.

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The first section is done.

I know the edging is not straight as I want to simulate a dry creek bed with grass on the sides. I can’t afford the rock pavers at this time. Mulch is cheap and it is great for retaining water in the soil right away.  Pretty is nice, but practical comes first.

I got 1/2 of the front yard de-thatched, Added some grub control, lawn food and seeded with grass. Perhaps it is wishful thinking but the front yard grass looks better in my opinion.  Mom got in and weeded the rose beds and the new front- yard garden beds.  I removed the concrete edging and replaced it with a plastic edging. We have one front yard bed to go but we both ran out of energy.

The Front yard bed I mulched with straw and leaves has soil that is rich and black. The bed I just added a bit or straw around my garlic does not look as rich. Improving soil naturally is a lot of work. Overall it is relatively cheap if you compost, but it takes time for all those items to break down.  I am experimenting on my beds and straw plus leaves in the fall creates good soil. I made a great weed killer mulch for the alley but now that I killed the bad weeds I need to add “good” plants and good soil builders to make the alley way garden healthy and self-sustaining.

Building a great looking lawn and /or garden is fairly simple. That does not mean it is easy. While I can’t say all lawns have about 2 inch deep topsoil requiring constant chemical infusions to remain green. While building your soil naturally is a lot of work and slow. You don’t need chemicals for a good product.

Many people want a weed killer for dandelions and other weeds. Dandelions are a great source of early “greens”and they show you that your lawn is unhealthy. Eat the greens, then make your lawn healthy, working with Mama Nature.

It was on sale, if I save any more money I will be broke

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I stopped by Home Depot to get a bit of top soil and the Earthgro wood mulch was on sale.  A two cubic foot bag is 5 bags for $10.00. While not as cheap as buying mulch by the pickup load. My mini-van can haul a few bags of this mulch.  I wanted to get another couple of bags of Kellogs garden soil but went with Earthgro topsoil on sale five 1. 5 cubic foot bags for $10.00.  For the borders/ edgings.  I got twenty of the 2 foot red scalloped edgers from D&B for $1.59 each. I have added the soil and grass seed on the borders and got another eight foot section of the walk way mulched. The “river rock ” sections will have to wait until I get a bit more cash saved up. Each 12×12 inch section costs $3.47 and over a long pathway that adds up very fast. The stones are a “nice” to have item not a need to have item for my path ways.

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I added some topsoil and steer manure to try and make the back yard lawn a little more level, plus add a few more nutrients as well as break up the nasty hard pan/clay soil. Because of cost I have to do the work in sections. I don’t want a huge backyard lawn, but I need to get the soil healthy for the future food forest concept. A friend told me about not killing weeds unless you have a good good healthy soil that will support a ground cover.  It is hard to believe but weeds are  Mama Nature’s soil paramedics that fix soil in place. If you have weeds don’t kill them with an herbicide. Find out what your soil needs to grow healthy plants you want around your house. Build good soil and the good plants will grow.

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So far Tucker the peke has not dug up the new grass beds.  Actually he seems to have a blast digging in the compost pile looking for mice. While Pekes are not consider working dogs, Tucker is a an outstanding “mouser”. Plus he runs off squirrels that look for an easy meal in my garden beds.

My loan for the roofing project is approved and on Monday the 11th we sign all the paperwork for the jobs to get started. I’m getting a great interest rate via this loan but I will be paying it back to the government. I am getting a hand up, not a hand out.

Last but not least I got 5 pounds of hamburger for only $2.00 per pound at Grocery Outlet and  they has a veteran discount card for every $35.00 spent you can get $3.00 off your grocery bill. What is great is you don’t have to spend $35.00 at one time or sign up for the discount card as they just hand the card to you and then the card gets scanned as you shop. I like this setup better than most grocery discount cards.

Being your own contractor takes effort

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I got all of the bids submitted to the city on Monday. Now I’m trying to coordinate everyone’s schedule so we can get all the contracts signed for the loan.  I will be financing about $7,500.00 for all of the work with me being the “contractor”.  Overall I am getting a good deal if the quality is good.  I have worked with the plumbers on a job. The roofer has a great reputation and about the only the electrician is new to me and is just starting to build his reputation, but I what have seen is good and the electrical is very simple installation of a couple of lights and a ceiling fan in the kitchen.  The city inspector is good to work with protecting me and the contractor.  While I have done some extra work getting bids and stuff I like how I get to pick the people working on my house rather than having to use government “approved” contractors. I get the feeling from the city people that I’m a bit unusual in trying to save money as well as getting the city and building pros together for doing good work on homes.

If everything works out this will be a Win-Win-Win for me, the City and the contractors. This program shows that a public/private partnership can work at a local level. That is why I don’t like Federal mandates because there is to much room for graft. I like local projects especially if people invest time, effort and energy. For me there is a “pride of ownership” in my little house that makes me want to make my house and yard look nice.

There were some great buys on meat at Cash and Carry. Boneless pork sirloin roasts for $1.35 per pound. This is a great chunk of meat that you can cut into pork steaks, toss in a crock pot or throw on the rotisserie for an easy meal. Albertsons had whole chicken for .88 cents per pound so I added a couple of birds to the freezer. I added a few hot dogs and hamburger buns for a weekend BBQ and some lettuce, tomatoes for BLTs. I seem to crave BLTs and salads in spring before I get the garden going.

Today I’m a little sore but I got the shopping done and the batteries all charged up for doing battle with the Spring clean up yard work. I think My Mom is excited to use the little 18 volt chain saw. I have to add a bit of manure to the front yard beds, clean up some weeds and mulch and add some cold weather crops. The daffodils and tulips are blooming and it looks like the garlic is in a happy spot in the south facing front yard bed. It looks like 2016 is going to be the year to get a lot of stuff done on the house and yard rather than just stocking up.

So far I will have got the House roof and some plumbing and electrical jobs started. Added the cistern and can capture and store about 425 gallons of rain water. Wood pile has refilled and is ready for next winter. Plus I am amending soil and adding a new Three sisters garden bed. Not too bad for just April.

 

Adding a bit of landscaping this weekend

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The winter/spring mud in the backyard this year was a pain in the butt. I am making additional walkway/paths that use paving rocks and mulch that I hope look a bit like a dry creek bed. I’m adding some grass seed that is drought and shade tolerant along side the pathways. This a job that will have to be done in section as I get money for the borders and try and build soil that will grow grass. The dirt that was dug out for the water main has not been good for growing stuff in the backyard. Some good news is the new grass areas got a bit of new soil and the mulch should help those areas retain water.  Overall the mulch and rock dry creek bed looks good and it is an easy for my garden wagon, big trash cans and the wheelbarrow to maneuver around for work.

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Northside of house and a start of the dry creek bed landscape. On each side of the path I have added new soil and grass seed that is shade and drought tolerant.

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Northside and Brody the peke’s south end. A blackberry bush (Blue bucket) Mom wants to save and a couple of pots ready for flowers. 

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Semi-Raised garden beds and the new 275 gallon  cistern

I think I have enough bids gathered for my house projects to submit this this week to the city of Nampa. Trying to be a contractor and find a three bids for several different jobs is tough.  Add the government into mix for approved contractor makes getting the loan for work can take a bit of effort.  If things work out, the city of Nampa will have a few more contractors they can recommend and I will get a new roof as well as a bit of electrical and plumbing work done via the low interest loan.

I walked back to the wood pile and it smells of drying wood.  The aroma is wonderful and I know I have a darn good start for heating this winter. Prepping and/or self-reliance is not about building a bunker for me. It is about a lot of little steps learning how to do things for myself everyday.

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Front yard strawberry kiddy pool planter.

Mom seems to have slept well and is ready to break out my little chainsaw and do battle with the trees and grape vines. I’m a bit sore today and it will probably be worse on Monday, but I’m charging up all batteries and have electric cords ready to go for Mom’s battle with Mama nature.

Speaking only for myself, this growing stuff and getting self- reliant takes time and money. There is also a bit of a learning curve using tools that I have purchased for jobs. You don’t need to plan for Armageddon.  Just plan to be ready for a local disaster, and start learning how to grow a garden. While I think a wood stove is great, Starting off withe a couple of Mr. Buddy or big Buddy heaters for warmth is a good start. Propane camp stoves are great but a Butane stove you can use indoors might be a better purchase with limited funds.

How you prepare or become self-reliant is on you. I can tell you how I did it, but my plan may not work for you. I believe in getting the “basics” and at worst you will have a great “tail-gaiting” or camping set up. Setup your preps for the worst case scenario you can afford to prepare for and if the worst case does not happen you are ahead of the game.

 

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Busy spring time and doing a bit of guest posts

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I have been busy adding some new items around Casa de Chaos.  One of the big items was a 275 gallon cistern/rain water collector from D&B for $225.00 with Mom’s senior discount. Along with the three 50 gallon rain barrels, I can collect/store about 425 gallons of rain water for the yard and garden. My concept is the rain barrels will keep the yard and gardens alive without using my potable stored water. Plus the rain water collection  gives me a backup potable  water supply at home once the water is filtered and treated for drinking water.  I added another small Sawyer water filter I got on sale at Fred Meyer for about $16.00.  For my water plan I have a Ceramic gravity filter, several of the Sawyer small water filters, Large stock pots for boiling water and a Solar oven setup to make safe drinking water.  About my only lack to make safe drinking water is dealing with chemicals or heavy metal contamination. A distiller is on my shopping list this year for that issue.

All of the raised beds in the back yard got some steer manure from D&B. Front yard flower  beds are starting to bloom. The golden raspberry and strawberry plant beds have new growth but it looks like my blackberry plant died. I think the blackberry plant needs a bit more shade as it never seemed to do that well in the front yard beds. The alley way beds/soil has improved a lot and it looks the wood ash and “killer” mulch has done a good job on many of the weeds in the alley beds. In a couple of weeks I can plant a few sunflower seeds I got for free in my Beaver creek  heirloom seed order. I was a little late planting garlic last fall but the garlic is growing great this spring in the southern facing front bed. Last but not least, I’m trying to clean up all of the grape vines that are severely overgrown.  I’m having to cut the vines a two foot section at a time as my stamina and garbage can space is limited each week.  I would like to can a bit of grape jelly and try making a bit of wine this year.

I got another two cords of wood stacked on a wood rick that will allow it to dry properly. So I should have plenty of dry firewood for winter if it is not a hard winter. It is seems to be easier to control the temp. of the stove when using dry wood. Plus dry wood burns a lot cleaner, you don’t have to clean out the stove cap so the wood stove can breathe.  I can afford to get the chimney cleaned in May and add another cord of wood this summer. I am thrilled I will be ready to go for next winter wood heating season by July.

I will submit the paper work for the Nampa city loan for replacing the roof and the other odds and ends for the house.  I have to say getting bids and coordinating home repairs is not easy. Especially if you work with the government (HUD) loans. I also have to say the gal I’m working with at Nampa city and most of the contractors have been good to work with for bids.

Thanks to all you have commented in a way it is nice to be missed if I don’t post new articles or my life at Casa de Chaos. I hope you all are doing well and you are still working your plan for self-reliance. Because no matter what happens, We are the people that will be there when the rubber hits the road.

How I restock as a prepper and garden stuff

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I think my approach on restocking my preps tends to hit the “ideal” based on most prepper/survival sites.  It’s not because I’m brilliant, I just have limited funds and I must make the most of sales for my future needs, items may be cheap this week and I have money on hand to get that product. I get “paid” the 1st of the month and the 3rd Wednesday of the month. I used to miss quite a few sales because I was broke and since I gave up credit cards a few years ago. No cash means no buying sales if the timing is off.

I call it “mad money” but it is just some cash you have on hand to take advantage of a great buy/sale.  A $5.00-$20.00 bill on hand can make a huge difference on building your pantry.  I have bought bags of grains that had a hole in the bag and went on discount. I store my long-term grains in buckets/barrels so I don’t care if the bag has a small hole that has been taped.

For example: I have an Albertson’s coupon for IAMs dry dog food good for the month of March. A 15 pound bag for $10.00, anytime you can get IAMs dog food for less than a dollar per pound you are getting a good deal.  I’m also buying up toilet paper and paper towels when they go on sale/coupon is in a sales flyer. I use both products though I have back up systems if the economy goes sideways.  Tissue and paper towels may be a good barter item in the future. At the very worst I am wrong about an Economic collapse/disaster and I don’t have to buy any dog food,  toilet paper or paper towels for several months.

Getting stuff you need cheap, or buying stuff with a coupon or 2 seems logical. I understand “loss leaders” and most stores are trying to survive work on a 6% or less profit in this economy. I will take advantage of low prices. I’m also a person paying cash and shop a lot before I make a purchase.  I’m buying for cash today, so I will be stocked up before anyone declares I’m a hoarder.

I’m not a hoarder, anyone can do what I do stocking a pantry. If a disaster hits, I won’t be at any store trying stocking up at the last minute.  I have spent the last 8-10 years of my income stocking up, buying gear and equipment and learning how to grow food +buy tools too overcome my disability. I pay my bills and my credit rating is in the 800s  because I didn’t use much credit for 5-7 years and paid my bills on time.

Life is simple, that does not mean it is easy! Planning ahead gives me “peace of mind” plus gives me extra time to react to any disaster.

Mom and I hit a garden class for starting garden plants at Zamzows. It was a good class and I learned some stuff.  This year, I seem to be panicking in March about plant starts. Rather than panicking in May getting plants in the ground after the frost. Well at least I’m hitting panic mode a bit early on getting the plants started. Worst thing that happens if the plant starts fail, I can panic plant starts from the local farm stores in May.  I have done that already!

Securing your router and network.

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I’m not sure why I had so much trouble setting up security again on my router during the PC and Internet/cable connection. But I had several other devices on my internet connection. But it was a good lesson on securing my internet.

I went with 2 layers of security. I did WPA encryption on the wireless access and set the router to accept only specified MAC addresses are allowed on my network.  A MAC address is unique identity to every tablet, PC, Laptop or wireless device. I set up my router to only allow certain MAC addresses to access my network/router. It takes a bit more effort adding each MAC address but if you have a lot of wireless devices or are going for “smart TVs and appliances” you may want to add or deny the appliance access to the internet.

Most hackers are not sitting around tpeying to “Crack” passwords. They have bought software that looks for crappy security and then get into networks. In a way they are are like burglars testing open doors and windows of a house.  Given enough time and effort the “bad guys” can break into your house or break into your network. All a person can do is make several layer of security and hope the bad guys get bored and look for an easier target.

I think setting up your router/ wi fi internet access for MAC only addresses you add is the best way to stop the bad guys.  I set my router for “authorized MAC addresses” and that worked as good or better than setting a strong WI-FI password. I still recommend you make a strong password of 8-12 letters and characters for your wi-fi connection.

I’m not a fan of the new “Internet of Things”. I want dumb TV and appliances, so I don’t get recorded or the cracker can turn on appliance setting at random. I think I can handle prepping milk for a disaster and I don’t need a “smart appliance” nagging me about my grocery/food choices.

This Apple Iphone of terrorists and the FBI is all theater to give Apple cover as the have no problem giving the Chinese government access.  The FBI simply wants cover to access everyone’s cell phone under Bush’s TSA and homeland Security act.  Facebook require you give up any and all anonymity  to communicate.

Ben Franklin published under a “user name” of Poor Richard.  Fighting TPTB does not require a person to be stupid or make themselves a target.  I don’t see many political movement that work if they require death. I know I don’t want to die. Even with thing going all “crazy”.  So when some idiot claims you are a coward. Tell them there is a difference between being brave and being stupid!

Bottom line I can only say what I am doing to try and protect myself from the PTBs.  I hope I can buy a place with a bit of land and some distance away from people/politicians. Until then I will improve “Casa de Chaos” as much as possible.

 

I got the new Desktop PC built, finally!

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This desktop PC took a long time to buy all the parts and get them shipped. I bought the wrong type memory sticks and I had to get a new power supply as the old one died after 8-10 years of good service. I bought a Windows 7 DVD to load software, plus I like having a physical disc of the software I install for trouble shooting or if I have a hard drive go bad the actual disc makes reloading the software much easier. I did not get a physical copy of Windows 7 with either laptop as the “disc/software” is stored on the hard drive. So if one of those hard drives fail I would lose the the Windows 7 Operating system. That is very bad and adds to the cost of getting a new hard drive in case of failure.  This will probably be the last Windows operating system I buy, as Windows 8 sucks for Desktops and Windows 10 is basically spy ware for Microsoft. That being said I think that Windows 7 is a great operating System for any PC as it seems to strike a good balance for ease of use and lots of options for a more hard-core PC user.

For the actual build of the Desktop PC, I upgraded to a multi-core AMD processor, DDR3 memory, a mid-range video card and Motherboard. I reused a couple of serial ATA Hard drives and DVD drive along with the old tool less Cooler master computer case. When you build your own desktop you can reuse older parts along with being able to upgrade or just do simple “pluck & chuck” repairs. Overall building your own PC will probably cost a bit more than an average desk top at the local Best Buy or Office depot but you tend to get a lot more “bang for your buck”. Plus you can keep pace tech wise via upgrading by adding video card, hard drive,  memory or a faster CPU/processor for a lot less money than buying a new desk top PC.  My last desk top lasted for over 8 years because I bought good basic parts that could be upgraded. This was during a time when video/gaming  technology exploded for high end graphics, lots of memory and multi-core processors were needed just to run some programs. Some games came out that literally could not be run at the highest setting by any Commercially available Desktop and the game developers bragged about it! Games like Far Cry or Crysis I can probably run on this Mid-range Desktop I just built.

I love how cheap data storage is today. Jump drives/USB sticks, memory cards and hard drives are so cheap and easy to use there just isn’t a good excuse not to make backup Digital copies of your computers, important paper work and photos.

Lat but not least, having a semi-powerful Desktop PC, a laptop and Wi-fi capable tablet or smart phone gives you redundancy.  I prefer a desktop as my primary PC because I like to game and tend to do a bit more  on a pc than email or word processing. The Laptop is great for bug out situations and can be kept as a backup in case of power outages, CME (Coronal Mass Ejections) /EMP and my Kindle fire is great for books as well as accessing the internet via wi-fi. A business person might need a more powerful laptop for work and the desktop used for storage/backup.

It is sort of like having a large pickup for hauling loads and a small car that is good on gas mileage. Both vehicles will transport you from A to B but each do some tasks better than others.

 

Can you make French toast in a disater?

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Almost every disaster or storm with a bit of lead time. We see grocery  dairy aisles cleaned out of milk, and eggs. Bread and bakeries look like the the leftovers of pillaging. I have to say I do make a bit of sport of the “pillagers” because it is so easy to prepare ahead of any storm.
I hope you have a good handle on the most common weather or earth events in your area.  From earthquakes,  tornadoes, blizzards (very cold weather) power outages or hurricanes and Wild fires. I know I left out a few things like flooding, landslides and other natural disasters that happen with regularity in certain areas but you get the idea.
Give the local people a bit a warning and a few things are certain to happen in any forecast disaster.
1. Bread,  milk and eggs will be get cleaned out of all grocery stores in about 6-12 hours.  The dreaded French toast hoarders.  You can buy and all the ingredients to make white bread that will last 5years (unbleached white flour) to infinity speaking of salt, sugar/honey.  You can buy cases of evaporated milk or boxes powdered milk (chill the powder milk/water mix and add 1/2 teaspoon of real vanilla extract for taste). Grow chickens for eggs or you can buy a  dehydrator and make your own dried eggs.  That covers the ingredients of French toast.
2. How to cook/bake the basics needed for French toast.  Most people have a gas grill or a charcoal grill and baking 5 minute Artisan bread is easy on a Pizza stone. I recommend buying a small propane camp grill or a butane burner for use with non cast iron cook ware.  If you have a Dutch oven you can go crazy baking and roasting foods.
3.Staying warm: I really like the Mr. Buddy or Big Buddy heaters for backup  if you have electric heat. The “Buddy heaters” have an O2 sensor but I recommend you get a Carbon monoxide monitor and double check all smoke alarms. It’s dumb to get dead, just because you think running a heater or generator 24/7 is the thing to do in a disaster. First off you will run out of fuel and most “full” fridge and freezers can stay cool/cold running about 4-6 hour per day. If you have a wood fire place or wood stove stock up on wood. If you have a Natural gas fireplace get a propane conversion kit and get some tanks on hand.
3. The big storm knocks out all power: Well you will want to let family and friends know you are safe if the internet or cell phones are up and working. You will need battery backups and power supplies. Text messages out of the local disaster area tend to get through compared to phone calls.
4. Most urban or suburban people are not ready for a dark night without street lights. Buy solar lamps that can be charged out side in the sun and provide some light indoors. LED flashlights/ head lamps, hurricane lamps or camping lanterns plus a few candles with mirrors behind the lamps can help keep “panic” at a minimum.
5. Before any storm clean the house and do dishes, laundry, vacuum carpets. Charge all phones, tablets and test out laptop batteries. Does the UPS actually keep the PC or laptop powered or is the battery a dud? I have a foldable 15 watt solar panel and a Rosewell 13500 milli amp battery pack. The little battery pack does a great job charging my cell phone and Kindle Fire. Now just need to test if the solar panel will charge the battery pack.
I don’t recommend any sort of panic buying. You just get some basics via rice/ beans and grains you like and buy all sort of spices for different meals. Trust me “food fatigue” is some thing all preppers need to be aware of and work to make their stockpile avoid it.

Home Depot tile class and stocking up

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The installing tile class at Home depot was great! I learned a lot about the new materials  you can use to install tile without cutting out drywall or using cement backer board. There are new products on the market that make installing tile much more simple and can save you steps compared to using the “old school” way to install tile.  Building materials are dropping in price. So if you are looking to do some home improvement projects now is a good time to stock up on materials you need for the job.

Mom and I hit the local farm store and stocked up on dry dog food and chicken feed. I need to buy some kitty food next “shopping day” but we have plenty of dry dog food for all of the pups. Mom got about a month’s worth of feed for the chickens and with the weather warming up the birds will do more free ranging in the yard to augment the feed. The chickens love scratching in the raised garden beds. The birds are like free mini-rototillers that work the soil. Plus the daily egg production is going up even though Mom’s birds are getting a bit old as egg producers. I know some people think installing the radiant heat barrier/insulation was over the top for a chicken coop. But, the radiant barrier stopped a lot of drafts as well as providing a bit of insulation.

Mom and I stocked up on more paper products last week and this week Albertson’s has Hamburger for $1.88 per pound and Fred Meyers has butter for $1.99 per pound with coupon. One of best aspects about prepping is once you have the basics on hand you can buy things on sale for the future, rather than pay higher prices because you ran out of an item and must have it.

The war on cash is starting to heat up. The PTBs always send out Op-Eds too float ideas first via the “Talking heads” testing the waters or simply see if people are paying attention. The latest war on cash idea is killing the $100.00 bill and the Federal Reserve talking about Negative interest rates along with banks getting Bailed in by depositors. Because a $100.00 bill is so much money and only terrorists or criminals would use such a high denomination bill!  Of course any one that shops at a grocery store or goes to a sporting event/dinner and a movie could never spend a $100.00.  /sarcasm  Heck you would be doing good if you spent only $100.00.

I don’t think you should stock up on $100.00 or even $50.00 bills. Everything I am reading about the “War on Cash” suggests the $20.00 and $5.00 dollar bills will stay as cash money for us “poor folk”. Before you say I’m crazy remember the USA used to have a $500.00 and $1000.00 bill in circulation, but the Federal Reserve just stopped making those bills to protect us “people” from all those nasty criminals and terrorists. I don’t remember any sort of vote or even a news broadcast, when the decision was made and implemented. Once you have stocked up on the basics for about 3 months. I think building a “cash reserve” of 3-6 months of payments/living expenses is just as important as building your food, energy  and water supply.  For long term savings I recommend either gold or silver. While I believe the value of PMs will go up relative to the dollar/ any fiat currency. I also think gold and silver will have buying power in either a inflationary or deflationary economic melt down.

I don’t care that a gallon of gas costs $1.50 or less per gallon or less and is in a deflationary cycle. If I have a 90% junk silver dime I can sell for $2.00-$2.50 at a local pawn shop. Based on silver a gallon of gas is very cheap compared to 1964 prices.  With a “fiat” currency and induced “inflation via the Central Bank or Federal Reserve. Gas is not all that expensive at $2.50+ per gallon, it’s that dollars are  becoming worthless.

Cash will be king in any disaster at least for a few weeks. PM’s will be valued next, and people will find a way to barter, like the “tally sticks” people used in England during the Medieval period.  A loaf of bread in in the “Weimar Republic” went from about one “Gold Mark” in 1913 Germany, to over a billion paper marks in 1923. Have you bought supplies to make bread?

There is a great page that covers “When Money dies” Search it out and then prepare. I think making a loaf bread  to pay off a mortgage sounds great but that only works if you bought and store all of ingredients before hyper-inflation happens. The PTBs will not give you a heads up before the economy collapses.

The worst that happens I learn to bake bread, I don’t need to buy bread at a grocery store and I in a disaster I don’t need to go shopping for bread or eggs (Mom’s chickens)  and I have bought a couple of cases of Evaporated milk and powder milk is already on hand.  In any emergency I am ready to make French Toast.  🙂

 

 

 

Getting bids, Doggie BOBs and local grocery store bought out.

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I had to get a lead paint survey done for the roofing loan and the people that did the survey were very helpful suggesting cheap ways to mitigate any lead paint chips so my critters would not ingest lead. Casa de Chaos only has a a couple of potential bad spots and it will not affect the work I want to get done via the city loan. Getting bids and doing the research on good contractors takes a lot more effort than I had anticipated. Thank goodness for the internet and computers making emailing the “scope of work” from the city easy to copy and paste. Plus having client ratings for the electrical, plumbing and roofers I’m authorized to get bids on the jobs makes getting the first bids a bit easier to start.  A $10 grand limit loan seems like a lot of money, but anyone who has contracted construction jobs knows that $10 grand won’t get a lot of work done using contractors.

All you construction pros please don’t take that in a bad way. Most of you are professionals and take a lot of pride in your work. Making/repairing homes is hard work and takes time, energy and knowledge I don’t have. You should be paid well for that, I just have to limit the jobs to that little bit of money I can afford to pay.  One cool thing is I may help the city and a couple of local contractors “hook up” with the city doing this sort of repair jobs.  The gal running the program and the building inspector are looking for good contractors for this program.  Overall I think I got in with a good bunch at the City of Nampa as well as people that want work as well want to do a good-great job. This is a program that needs to work and so far the contractors I have contacted are more than willing to work with the city and give bids in order to get the work done. Hopefully everything will work out to everyone’s advantage. The city will get a list of good contractors, I get a low interest loan to take care of my older house’s structural/safety issues. While 100 years is not a lot of time. I like the idea of fixing up historical areas and using modern materials that reproduce an era.

From the water main fiasco I would recommend you ask to see all work permits from the city and refuse to pay the last bit of money to any contractor until the final inspection is done by the city code inspector.  I have no problem giving a contractor 1/3-1/2 of the money on a contract for materials once they get the permit and then paying the rest on city inspector’s okie dokie.  Sorry, construction guys the bad fly-by-night jerks make that a requirement for me. I can’t afford small claims court and the bad guys/ripoff artists will just set up business under a new name when sued. I have to say after getting job bids for my little project I have gained a lot of respect for general  contractors. Getting bids and lining up workers on a time line is not easy.

I’m building up the Doggie’s BOBs. I’m feeding Pedigree soft canned dog food but I’m adding Pedigree soft/wet food pouches to the doggie BOBs to save weight.  Changing any pet’s diet can cause stomach upset so it is best if you have at least a few days worth of their normal feed and a bit more to mix with the “new normal” feed if you have to bug out.  I have added brushes, combs and nail clippers along with some basic bandages and OTC meds to help keep the pets happy and healthy. Leashes and backup collars so the animals will not run off along with enough small kennels/carry boxes that will give the critters a safe place if I need to bug out. I added  a couple of  metal water bottles, I want to get a small Sawyer water filter just for the critters bug out bag.  I am still testing out a few ideas for water and food dishes. I’m looking for a compromise on weight, storage size and ease of cleaning.

Paul’s a local grocery store was just bought out by Albertson’s and I’m a little peeved. I try hard to support local business but I also know most grocery stores operate on razor thin profit margins.  I can’t really blame people going for the cheapest price when money is tight. But Paul’s was sort of like a poor man’s whole foods for buying local. Some good news, I saw a cashier from Paul’s in Nampa get hired by Albertson’s.  I know there will be some downsizing and consolidation but it is nice to know that Albertson’s is giving some of the workers from Paul’s a job.

Mom and and I must get out in the country and at best it will take the rest of 2016 just to get all the equipment and tools we need just to make the attempt of going country.  This is not our first rodeo, we know making a go in Owhyee county will take a lot of work. We are trying to get all of the tools on hand as cheaply as possible before we move. But with Mom’s divorce dragging out I suspect we will need to hang out here in the city for another 10-12 months.

Don’t worry about us as the Casa de Chaos is getting a new roof and a few electrical and plumbing jobs done.  Oh we may hate we that we are stuck here for a bit.  But I got the new hard side green house and a soft side on hand and ready to set up.  I’ll add a 300-500 gallon water tank next month.  While Mom is a bit frustrated about the divorce going into it’s 15th month.

I am working to get Casa de Chaos fixed up and set up for a perma-culture/food forest and ready for the real estate market.  Will it work? I don’t have a clue. but I know doing nothing, won’t work.  If you are  standing still, you are a target at best or tend to get run over at worse. As a wise person said ” Get busy living or get busy dying. Your choice!

 

 

 

 

Crown molding class at Home Depot

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The class was not what I expected as it covered, what to buy and how to use different types of molding. It seems the gal giving the class did not show up and Home Depot sort of made the class up at the last minute. Don’t get me wrong I did learn a few things and got a couple of great ideas, but it wasn’t worth giving up my nap time on a Sunday afternoon. Plus standing on a concrete floor for 1.5 hours + just sucks for me physically. I still think the free classes are worth signing up for but not during afternoon “nap time”.  I’m really looking forward to the tile/back splash class next Saturday at Home Depot. There is a new “mat” you can place over drywall that replaces cement backer board.  That will make adding tile wall/backsplash accents much easier to install.

Mom gives me a hard time about improving the house, but overall she gets that I’m trying to strike a balance on the house looking good to sell and will also be a good for  a disaster, and if it takes a little more time before we can get the country place because of the economy. We can survive here fairly well with what we have on hand. I hope we can get out of the city this year. Things may not work out for “Plan A” so getting this house and yard fixed up is “Plan B” that sort of feeds into “Plan A”.

The worst that can happen via the divorce is Mom must live here a bit longer than she anticipated as she gets no “cash out” of the jointly held assets. I have a good credit rating and homes in my area are selling at a high price, quickly and even some bidding wars are happening. I know real estate prices can shift up or down very quickly but I think adding a new roof, fixing up the small electrical and plumbing issues along with making pretty in the house and a perm a-culture setup in the yard. I’ll make this a great house for selling as well as a great place to live if Mom and I need a year or two getting all our “ducks in a row” moving to Owyhee County.

I’m  at the lower part of the “economic food chain” and I have invested a lot of time, effort and energy making this house a home.  Any house/ home is just 4 walls and a roof.  It’s nothing more than shelter against the elements. It’s people, not homes that make a neighborhood, community, town or city. This house was great for a “community”  but with the divorce and the “good neighbors”  moving out. The only thing (Community) holding me here is gone. I want to “pop smoke” right away, but it will take a bit of time to gather cash and tools going country.

Some updates: Don’t waste your money on those plastic saw horses you see on sale. I picked up some metal brackets for $3.00 to make good saw horses via a couple of 2×4 that will be more substantial and with low cost actually last longer and be lower in cost the long run. Buy lumber now! at least a few 2×4 s and some plywood for basic building materials and covering windows up if you can’t afford security bars. If you can afford it start upgrading your home.  If you need to spend a few weeks indoors because of weather/ sickness or an economic collapse. The better you are prepared, life will be easier.

I don’t know where you are on your “prepping/survival” journey. The loss of a job or fire/flood can really screw up anyone’s plans. I sure as heck never thought I would become 100 %disabled and spend 3 months at the VA and 6-9 months living on $400.00 a month. Don’t be me, when I first started prepping. Learn from other people’s mistakes as well as the things that go right.

Being a prepper/survivalist/homesteader can be fun or at least interesting. It all depends on your attitude.  A pessimist sees the glass 1/2 full of water only half full and thinks negative. An optimist sees the glass as 1/2 full and thinks positive. I see the glass always full, of air or water. It simply depends on your point of view.

Computers and electronic stuff

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I got most of the parts installed for the updating the Desktop PC. I ordered the wrong memory sticks so it will be next week before I can give you a report on how the PC performs. The refurb HP laptop is running like a champ and the Windows 7 operating system is working great with older programs made for Windows XP!  I want a desktop PC for several reasons:

  • With desktop PC you can upgrade hardware easily to stay current with technological advances.  Laptops are very difficult to upgrade beyond a hard drive or memory sticks.
  • Building your own desktop machine often is cheaper than buying a store bought machine as you can reuse older parts or computer cases to hole the parts of the new PC.
  • You can build a more powerful desktop for a lot less money than buying powerful laptop. For example: The desktop I am building will have more memory, more hard drive space, a dedicated video card for graphics (gaming/video editing). A somewhat powerful laptop for gaming will cost about a thousand dollars. A desktop PC with the same gaming capability of that laptop can be built for $500.00 or less.
  • Having both a laptop and desktop PC provides redundancy for your computer needs. While both computer will do most jobs, a laptop is better if the power goes out or if you need to bug out. A desktop gives you a lot processing power for daily tasks.
  • I want to have a laptop stored in my “faraday cage” that can be updated and somewhat capable in case of a CME or I need to bugout.  The internet is now the place to get information, so I think all preppers must have wifi/mesh networks or access to the internet for info.
  • Life goes on even if you are prepping for Armageddon! I would not suggest that gaming is life, but there is nothing wrong going out on WOW raids or playing a few hours of a FPS/RPG game. Actually those games are a great way to talk to gamers world wide and get their opinion on what is happening locally in their country.

I tested out the Rosewell 1300 milli-amp hour charger on my kindle and cell phone. I used the 2 amp USB port and both the kindle were recharged in about 4 hours the phone was charged in about 2 hours. I guesstimate about the same amount of time charging via an electrical outlet.  The Kindle fire was at a 50% percent charge but I can’t give you a % remaining charge on the phone. I guesstimate about a 25-33% was remaining on the cell phone battery. The battery pack showed a 75% charge remaining after charging the Kindle fire and less than 75% of the battery pack was used to charge the the cell phone. The next test on a sunny day will be to use the 15 watt folding solar panel to recharge the Rosewell battery pack.

For solar power I’m doing a combination of 100 watt panels, AGW batteries and then several smaller battery packs that can be charged via home outlets and recharged via small solar panels. Adding batteries to your BOB can get very heavy, very quick. If it works having a small fold able 15 watt solar panel charging a small battery pack to recharge small electronic device might be something to add to your “bugout” plan.

I can’t speak for anyone else,  but I love all of the books I have downloaded on my kindle and I want to have all that data available if things go a bit sideways. The worse that can happen is everything won’t work despite all my planning.  If something works then I am ahead of the game.

Most prepping starts out as being ready for local/regional ” natural/personal disasters”.  If you start small on preparing for most common local disaster you might experience and then build on that basic set up you will be prepared for “most” of the slings and arrows of outrageous “bad luck”.

 

City inspector checked out the House

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For the roof loan the city needed an inspector to check out the house.  I think it went well overall as he thought the work I wanted done was reasonable.  Good news on the roof is it looks like a single layer and just some warping of the under-layment, should not cost a lot to replace, unlike rafters.  I got authorization for replacing the kitchen new lights and ceiling fan. I think the “city folks” were impressed that I had the 2 new LED light fixtures and ceiling fan already on hand for installation.

I was very surprised the City inspector said I could run the washer discharge hose into the yard, since most laundry soaps are very low on Phosphates now.  I will still run the hose to the shower to drain but, it is nice to know the “wash water/gray water” can safely be used to water the garden, yard and trees.

Perhaps I am assuming too much about these city of Nampa people but I think I’m just the sort of person they “want to help”.  I’m a disabled vet (not combat) but I do as much work I can on my own, buy the stuff I want installed and I don’t complain about the loan amount that is offer or the payments. 0% is a great deal for any loan. I have a great credit rating and pay all my bill on time.

When I got CIDP and had limited income for over 9 months, I got very serious about living within my means.  Having the Harley Softail repo’ed hurt, along with my Mom buying groceries for me showed I didn’t own anything I was simply paying rent on the “American Dream”.  I can tell you if you “screw the pooch” on credit it is not the end of the world. Sure it will take a bit of sacrifice paying off stuff.  Add a bit of time,getting a small personal loan  for purchases, rather than depending on a credit card.  Or you could really go crazy and actually save and pay cash!

I don’t think all debt is evil, but all debts has a cost beyond the payment.  With debt you are counting on future money. In today’s world I think counting on any sort of “future” money is gambling.  I have planned for a 30% reduction in my SSD payment,  either in buying power or a direct cut via the government. I can handle that “cut” fairly easily. A 60% cut would be tough for me to handle if there is an Economic Collapse in the USA.  These sort of cuts happened in Argentina in 2001 and the Greek and Cypriot members of the EU. I hope it won’t happen in the USA but the “elites” will protect themselves first monetarily and then think about the rest of of proles a very distant second at best.

I think a “global economic collapse” is coming. Now is the time to get those last minute preps on hand. You need any work done on vehicles or your home?  Now is the time to get it done, or stockup on those materials you need to get the work done. I think if the PTBs (Powers That Be) can keep juggling for time, that is a good thing!  Things are going to suck, but prepping ahead of time could make thing suck less. I hope I am wrong again and the worse that happens is a few more people get ready for a disaster, are prepped for a storm/blizzard and have most of the basics on hand for any disaster.

I don’t care what sort of disaster you may face the basics are pretty much the same.

  1. Shelter: can you stay warm and dry?
  2. Water, cooking sanitation: Do you have safe drinking water and a way to safely dispose of poo? Can you cook off grid and for how long, do you have a water source?
  3. Security: Can you protect your family and what you got?
  4. Energy: This might be muscle power, solar power or gas powered. Do you have enough “energy”stored to survive?
  5. Food stored/production: Can you grow at least some fresh foods to stay healthy? Do you know how to preserve foods if electricity is intermittent or gone?

To paraphrase Clausweitz: Prepping is simple, but the simple things are hard. Simple and easy are not same thing.

My recommendation is get all work done now!  Stock up on basic goods now, especially if you get a sale. “Just in Time” delivery works great for saving money but I think we are closing in on a time that many of the items we expect to buy will literally be unattainable for any price.  I am going to restock pet food.  I would suggest you stockup  on your weakest prep item.

I may be wrong but I don’t think the economic collapse will happen this spring.  I’m no prophet, so I am stocking up on what I see as my weak prep areas. I assume I’m wrong on timing anything in the “market”.

I know I need a good roof on my home. If I can get a O% interest loan I’ll take that loan for my house.

This prepping stuff is simple if not always easy.

UPDATE: on the home made soap. I did not get the essential oils correct(for aroma) but it seems to be an effective soap/cleaner. Mom has used the soap in the bath and is very pleased with the suds/texture compared to store bought soap bars.  I did not do a good job of spreading the soap in the loaf pan. A narrow stainless steel spatula will be the next on the shopping list.

Easy crockpot soap, other projects

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http://readynutrition.com/resources/crock-pot-soap-an-easy-recipe-for-beginners_28012016/

“During the cold, wet winter months there are times when I have to move my homesteading activities inside until the weather improves. Last weekend, during a bout of bad weather in my neck of the woods, I decided to make a quick batch of soap in my crock pot.” –Tess Pennington

I decided to try out this soap recipe. The instructions are very easy to follow though I would add a couple of layers newspaper on your work surface for any spills of oil or lye. I mixed up the lye outside on the covered patio to avoid making any fumes in the house. From start to finish it took about an hour to mix and heat up the batch of soap. Right now the soap is in the mold and it will take a day or two for it to setup to be cut.  I can say the recipe works as soap. When I cleaned all of the equipment, using the leftovers of the soap in the crock pot, I had soapy water and my dish cloth is very clean plus the fibers of the cloth became super soft.  I can see why Tess uses the leftover water to do the laundry! It has been about 5 hours and the soap in the mold is starting to setup and harden!  I’m feeling positive I will be able to make some soap bars to cure in the next 7 days.  While a bit early, I think Tess has a great recipe for soap.

Update on the soap: I got the soap out of the mold (silicone bread loaf pan) and cut into bars. In a week or two the soap should have cured enough to be used. This was a great recipe for me to start making soap. I did a couple of changes for protective gear mixing up the lye;

  • I used a clear full-face safety/ protective mask
  • I put on a disposable plastic apron to protect my body/clothes from any splashes of the the lye mixture.

These safety measures might be a little over the top.  I figure if lye getting in my eyes is a bad thing, having it hit my face anywhere would be extremely unpleasant. The disposable apron would protect my clothes and avoid a hasty undressing and cold shower if the lye got on my clothes. I just happen to have those items on hand because of the Ebola medical prep I did last year. One of the greatest things about prepping is most items are multi-taskers that have many different applications.

I recommend you check out Tess Pennington at http://readynutrition.com/ as the blog has all kinds of great information.

I got some mulch for my backyard paths and a neat little river-rock looking idea for a step stone/mulch pathway. I don’t mind using concrete forms or rock pavers if it can create my vision for my yard that looks good and is functional. I am very excited about getting started on the perma-culture/ food forest idea this year.

I got a call from the city about the HUD loan and the city folks are waiting on the “Historic district” people. It seems my home was built in the 1920’s rather than the 40’s as I was informed when I bought the house.  While there might be some limitations on some of the projects I think it is sort of cool that in 4 years my home will be 100 years old and is still standing. For me, as an amateur historian owning a hundred year old home is kind of fun. Plus I like the many of the “Art deco” and 1920-1930’s styles of “Country/Rustic” with a modern take using modern materials.

Don’t get me wrong, I still want to go “country” but if I can’t sell/pay off  this house for more than I owe on the mortgage, it will take a bit more time to save up cash.  But until all the “stars align” for a country place I can still work on making this house rock solid and start on saving cash for a truck and a small yard tractor as well as making this a house a great place where I’m happy to live .  Plus I’m still learning about plants, gardening, micro-climates, how to use mulch, raised beds along with container gardening. While I can’t get a student loan from the Government. I am getting educated!

I think it is very important to learn to make use of all available resources where you live “right here and right now”.  I doubt things will ever be “perfect” but a person can reach for “perfection” where ever they live.

 

 

 

Cinnamon rolls turned out okay

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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%

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

 

Paperwork for the HUD loan collected

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I got the last of the paperwork needed for the HUD loan finished up today. The loan repayment would be in the $85.00-$100.00 per month if I could not defer the loan until the house sold.  I’m a bit leery about deferring government loans as the compound interest keeps building, that can eat up any profits very quickly.  Since I have used my VA loan for this house, I need to sell at a little profit so I can make a 20% down payment via a conventional loan to eliminate any mortgage insurance cost. Worse case scenario on the loan is my payments for the house will be around $500.00 per month. I can afford that loan cost for housing and I’m about 33% monthly debt to income ratio. At best it will take 2-3 months for the paperwork to go through the bowels of government.  Perhaps in March-July I might have loan approval for fixing/replacing the roof.

I got good news on my credit score getting bumped up to 760 and above for any loans.  It has taken a few years since I got smacked to rock bottom financially speaking when I got disabled.  But I have repaired my credit rating without getting credit cards or going into a lot of debt. I got a small revolving credit account at Les Schwab and got a small personal loan via the Credit Union for the fireplace that I paid on time/paid off a little early. I’m living proof you can rebuild your credit rating without resorting to credit cards or expensive (high interest) loans. Speaking for myself, I suck at using credit cards as it is just to easy for me to rationalize using credit because I need something or it is on sale.  Well if you you can’t pay off the credit bill every month all of your “savings” will get eaten up in compounding interest payments.

Some folks are great at using credit cards. They pay the bill in full monthly before the interest kicks in, they gain all those “bonus points” and savings.  I’m just not that good, as the same idea of getting some thing on sale this month tends to put off paying off the card the next month. If you pay off your card monthly, I say more power to you because I know the credit card companies “hate”  you and would much rather have a credit card user like me that buy on sale and then pay the min. payment so the interest builds.  If you suck at using credit cards like me (rationalizing) buying on sale or making min. payments. I suggest you stay away from those cards.  A Visa or Master Card debit card will do most everything a credit card does, but without going into debt.  For me going to cash and not using a debit card while shopping made me save money.  I am pretty tight with my shopping money but there seems to be a big difference to me sliding a debit card or breaking a $20.00, $50.00 or $100.00 bill. Debit card spending does not feel quite real to me, but busting a $100.00 is very real and I get immediate feed back of what I have just spent.

I don’t think I am a “Juggernaut” but I can be very relentless in attaining a goal I have set for myself.  It may not happen quickly, heck I spent over 18 months waiting for the Kia mini-van to replace the PT cruiser. Over 3 years of planing for installing the wood fireplace. I’m not afraid to spend another year or two here at Casa de Chaos and getting thing fixed up to sell. If the bottom drops out of the real estate market again, at worse I will have a solid home/shelter and a pretty good setup for growing some food to augment my supplies and plenty of water after adding the greenhouses and water cisterns. Plan for the worse and hope for the best is my goal.

Sometimes the best plan is to just sit and not do anything and see how things shake out.

 

Working on loan paperwork, plumbing and a carpet cleaner

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Things got off to a good start this Friday, first stop was Harbor Freight buying the green house.I was a little surprised that they only had four in stock for the sale. I am glad I got there early as I have missed out on several greenhouses “selling out” before I got to the store.  We now have two walk-in greenhouse though one of the “houses” is one of the cheap plastic over a metal frame type of greenhouse.  The two walk-in greenhouses should give us plenty of space to start plants for the garden this year. This will save us a lot of money compared to buying plant “starts” at the local farm store.

I need to add a four more heavy duty tomato/potato cages for my growing vertical experiment. These cages should also work for any garden out in the alkali/hard pan soil of Owyhee county.  Based on trying to grow stuff on Mom’s first place, it will much easier to start with raised bed gardens and then work the slow process of improving soil naturally.  One of the big reasons I need a pickup and ATV is to haul a lot of compost and mulch around any future homestead. Trying out a few hugel-culture raised beds could be a worthwhile experiment to direct water as well as add more growing spaces.

About the March time frame a 300-500 gallon cistern should be do able. I already have several rain barrels, though my water delivery system needs work.  Now theoretically a 1000-1200 square foot roof should “capture” nearly 3000 gallons of water per year based on average rainfall here in SW Idaho.  The problem is not lack of water, but getting water at the right time and having a way to store it safely until needed. Stagnant pools or ponds are a no-go because of insects breeding and West Nile virus in the area.  The only solution I see is a rain catchment system that can be closed to prevent any insect breeding. Especially since many of the properties I have looked share a well and drilling my own well would break my budget.

That is a start on the food and water problems my homestead will face. By starting small, making effective use of my city lot, I am gaining equipment and skills that will transfer to the new homestead.

I had to fix a leaking bathroom drain. I had installed a “modern” drain and plug, what was needed was old school plumbing.  I still don’t trust the concept of compression fittings, but so far so good. No leaks and I think the old fashion type drain and plug will be much easier to keep clean.

Mom’s Bissel carpet shampooer died but I was able to fix it.  The problem was the water pump stopped working, it seems the belts that move the beater bar also help pump the cleaning solution. Once we cleaned out all of the hair on the pulleys the belts attach the pump started working again.  It seems the hair allowed the belts to slip.  When things break I try and fix them. Since I can’t really break it more, I might as try to fix it. I can always throw it away if I can’t figure out how to fix it.

 

Moving to the country will happen, how quickly is up for debate

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First things first, Casa de Chaos will need a new roof and some minor electrical and plumbing work. If I sell the house or Mom and I need to stay here longer we will need a good solid roof over our heads.  Luckily Nampa City has a 0-3% loan/grant program for those type of repairs and the loan might be deferred until the home is sold. I talked to the city today and it looks good for me as a candidate for a loan. I seem a bit unusual in that I have a good credit rating even though I don’t have a lot of income. Thank goodness I did not over mortgage myself when I bought this house and when I refi-ed the house I just wanted a lower payment and interest rate.  If I get approved for the loan the little house should be in great shape to live in or sell in the next year or two.

I will buy a rigid panel, 6×8 greenhouse at Harbor Freight. The greenhouse can be moved to the new place but it will useful here at Casa de Chaos extending the growing season. The last couple of years I have been a bit late on getting the garden plants started so I end up playing catch up and then getting overwhelmed at harvest time.  For a house in the city, this place does have a good set up of fruit and nut trees, grape vines and several different micro-climate garden beds that do a good job supplementing the food budget/pantry.

I have seen a few Owyhee county small acreages in the $70,000-$100,000 range that might work out for mom and I. Both of us need a place around $80,000 so we can put a 20% down payment to avoid paying mortgage insurance. We also will need to have some cash on hand to buy a couple of used ATVs and pickup trucks for work/farm vehicles.  I have a good set of tools for working the soil here in town but I remember digging post holes for a small horse corral via a post hole digger because the hardpan broke most augers.  I was a lot younger and physically healthy at the time. I sure can’t do that sort of physical work now!   I have aged a bit and I like to think I have learned to work smarter rather than harder, plus I cheat a lot to save my physical energy.

So far what I have come up with as a plan of attack is:

  1. Get a low interest loan or grant via the city of Nampa and fix up my house for the future and or selling it for enough money to pay off the mortgage and have money for a 20% down payment plus a buffer of few grand for any emergencies that will arise.
  2. Buy a used ATV and small pickup for working any future farmland/homestead.
  3. Start checking out properties in Owyhee County and touch base with some of the people we know that remember Mom and are willing to give us a head’s up on any good deals.
  4. Buy a Cistern we can use at my place or move to the new homestead that will hold rain water as a backup to the city water system or well.
  5. If possible start inviting like-minded preppers/starting homesteaders along with working with the local FFA and 4-H groups or trading/renting a bit of land for the physical work we can’t do daily.  It can be terrifying to strike out and become a homesteader and it is not the thing for everyone. Perhaps renting a bit of land with someone you trust might be a good way to get your feet wet on homesteading. Without completely pulling up stakes and moving before you are ready to make that sort of commitment.

The plans are still very preliminary but when I set a goal I tend to make it happen eventually. I only dread draining my water barrels if I have move.

The “Gone Country” plan for 2016

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Mom and I want to move back to the country.  At this time financing a country place might be problematic and since Mom’s divorce is not final any loan would have to be small, or I would have to get lucky selling my home quickly with a small profit.  But what the hell?  If the game was easy everyone would play.

I found a few potential home/farms for a very good price that could work for Mom and I.  Both Mom and I lived on a place in Owyhee county and neither one of us thinks making a go of a small patch of land will be easy.  While both of us are disabled, we are getting a lot better about using power tools to cheat. As well as using compost and bio-mass to augment the soil in Owyhee county.

Ten acres is the upper limit on any place if we can afford the financing because I would like to raise some grass fed beef without a huge cost for hay or other fodder. I think we will start with smaller animals such as a pig or two the first year until we start building up the soil and grazing area.  I’d like to go with sheep for wool but I know nothing about sheep. I worked on a (beef) cattle ranch. I know nothing about dairy cattle, so I will stay away from dairy cattle until I gain more knowledge.

Every growing thing will have to be done via raised beds or bucket gardens to start.  It will take at least a full growing season or year to learn all micro-climates and start improving the soil.  On a lot of 5 acres or more, I could make a self-sustaining food forest.

On The little Casa de Chaos here in Nampa. Well the realtor’s and Zillow.com say the home is worth about $100 grand. If I can sell the place for $95,000-$100,000 + to someone. I could take a small profit of $15 grand to invest into the new homestead.  While I “bitch” about the upkeep and money I have invested in the house. Overall I still think it is a great home.  If anyone wants to move to  the Boise Idaho area, live in a historic district home with 1% loans via the city to “renovate” a historic home, give me comment.  By the way it is a 3 bedroom, 1 3/4 bath with a large storage basement and a great wood stove. The large shop will hold a mini-van and a 16 foot boat when not used for storing furniture. I also have RV parking for any trailer/ RV under 30 feet as well as a carport.  If you want to move to Idaho and get your feet wet, but stay close to shopping and schools,  This little home might be right for you and your family.

 

I feel like I am getting caught up on stuff for2015!

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Don’t get me wrong a prepper’s work is never done, at least for me I see preparing as a way of life. For all of 2015 I felt I was about 2-4 weeks behind schedule all year and most of the year seemed to be an exercise in “Crisis Management”.  I did not anticipate Mom’s divorce or her spending a year living with me. Plus I did not set good goals for 2015. For me having realistic goals set for the year is critical to my mental outlook as well as giving me a feeling of accomplishment. Having Mom around has been great, but I have to say that I did not have a firm grasp on my goals for 2015 so with Mom’s help I did manage to get some other things accomplished.  For other people it might be an adult child moving back home or taking on a grandchild, niece or nephew from parents that need to make sure the child is cared for while they get work/relocate.  I suspect I am not alone getting blind-sided by taking in a relative in today’s economy.

While “Crisis Management” is one thing that is very stressful. Learning to be flexible enough to adapt and go with the flow is a prepping and survival skill you need and practice. I can’t speak for others but I have had a lot of practice on adapting to new situations in 2015.  I don’t mind adjusting my goals when new stuff happens, but I really despise the idea of crisis management.  One of the reasons I think I felt I was always behind in 2015 is that I did not write down goals and check them off when achieved or simply crossed goals when I saw no way to make them happen.  For me, scratching a goal off the list is better than trying to play catch up. Since I did not have a list of goals for 2015 there was nothing to scratch off the “todo” list

I am blessed that Mom and I work and live together very well. I do most of the cooking and Mom does the dishes. I like doing outside work and Mom likes cleaning the house.  There is some overlap on jobs but overall we work well together.  Mom wants to get a place out in the country in Owyhee County. I would like a place out in the country like that,  but have been afraid to try and sell my house and worse actually move all my stuff.  I would not be moving to some third world nation and I generally only shop at the local “mega-marts” twice a month so gas prices should not be a huge problem.  Here in the city I can not get close to any sort of self-sufficiency as I do not have a enough land for critters and large garden.  I’m not sure if I’m physically capable of growing most of my own food in the country, but I know I will never grow enough food on my city lot with all of the zoning restriction.

Nampa Idaho is not a big city, but the whole “Treasure Valley” Corridor from Mountain Home (AFB) to Ontario Oregon is becoming an “Urban Megaplex” along I-84.  Boise Idaho according to the last census has a larger population than Salt Lake City Utah.  While I like the area, I don’t like some of the “big city politics” I am starting to see out of Boise.  Just this fall we had Boise city government bragging about buying (via a bond levy) open spaces and then shut down a local “tent city” because there was not enough money to “police the tent city or provide sanitation”.  I love “greenbelts, parks and bike paths” as well as the next person but if a city is buying up land with taxpayer’s dollars, all they end up doing is drive up housing costs and create more income inequality. The PTBs actually make the urban housing problem worse via zoning regulations and declaring green zones, no development zones. I suppose this works out great for people that have already got their homes, but it really sucks for young people/ families and those folks that live on the fringe.

 

Bottling lard

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We are down to the last jar of lard and it is time to add some more jars of lard to the pantry.  I buy the Morrell Snow cap lard in 4 pound buckets when it is on sale.  This lard stores great in the cool dry basement and does not seem to go rancid very quickly. I have stored this fat for two years in the basement and it seems to do as good or better than most fats or oils for the length of storage time.  From what I have researched about storing lard it is the little bit of skin and meat left in home rendered lard that contributes to the fat turning rancid.  I can’t say this is true for me since I use a commercial product that is filtered. I would be very careful using this method if you render lard at home.  I suppose it comes down to how quickly you use lard and how clear you can get it cleaning off the “cracklins”.

The first step is starting with clean jars and lids.  I like the 1/2 pint wide mouth jars as they are easy to dip a paper towel or fork to add a bit of fat to a skillet or to season a cast iron pan. I preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. and place the clean jars in a pan and then set them into the oven until all of the jars are completely dry.  I slowly heat up a pan full of lard on the stove top and the canning lids are warmed up but not boiled. A 12 pack of the 1/2 pint jars will hold exactly 4 pounds of melted lard.

Once the lard is liquid, and canning jars are dry I get them out of the oven and fill them up, wipe any excess oil off the jar and set on the lids.  After some time most of the lids will seal and make a sort of popping sound.  Please note,  this is not a government approved method of storing lard or butter but it has worked well for me.  You do this process at your own risk!  Any jars that don’t “pop/seal” I use those jars first!

I use the same process if I want to bottle butter but I add a small marble to the jar  and shake it while the jar cools so the butter does not separate as much.  You could skim the milk fat solids off the melted butter and make clarified butter or ghee. With the fat solids removed, the butter should have a much longer storage life.  I have read that ghee/clarified butter stores much better in temps above 75 degrees F. and can last 5-7 years in storage. I have not tested the storage time for clarified butter but I have tested the bottle butter at 18-24 months and it was good to eat.

I like this method for storage because if you screw up the fats will go rancid and your sniffer will tell you if you have a bad product. I also think that the FDA is full of crap about how natural oils and fats are bad for a person, yet highly refined and chemical infused vegetable fats are great, simply because they are liquid at room temperature. Just look at the ingredient list on a package of margarine and vegetable/canola oils. If you have stored some of those oils and don’t want to use them in food prep, just add them to your oils for things like squeaky hinges, bicycle chains, rust preventive for garden tools and other jobs that need a light weight oil in the shop/garage or around the house.

 

Shopping today and snow!

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Woohoo!  shopping at Harbor freight today and I had coupons for several good deals on stuff for the house.

With the first good snow coming in I added a 24 pack of AA batteries and a 6 pack of D batteries for all the flashlights and the Ds work in my shower water pump and the smokeless ashtrays.  I really like the new LED type flashlights,  even most of the cheaper ones have a great battery life. The big hand held spot light is great as it has it’s own battery and can be charge via house current of via 12 volt cigarette lighter.  I filled up two of the railroad type safety lanterns and both of them leaked oil, not good! So the lanterns are empty and in the shop to have the wicks and glass globes parted out. I have two large hurricane lamp, several windup and battery powered lanterns along with mirrors to help augment the light. Once you add in Mom’s candle gardens, I can say the lighting is still in good shape after losing the use of those two lanterns.

I got a couple of the small ammo boxes at Harbor Freight. These boxes are a good size for grabbing a couple to go to the range or plinking. You could use these boxes for storing ammo in several locations/cashes. I have not tested the boxes for water proofing but they do seem to have a good lid to box fit and the box has a spot for a padlock.  The real nice buy I got was on a 4 tool boxes for just $20.00. The largest box is huge at 22 inches long by 11 inches wide and deep. The next box is 20 inches by 8 inches wide and 9 inches deep. I want to make one of the larger size tool boxes, a shooting range box for my pistols. It would be nice to have all my range stuff in on easy to handle box rather than have to make several trips or try and juggle my shooting supplies. With the three leftover boxes I can finally get all of my small hand tools organized so I can find them without a lot of searching.

I got a couple of the solar yard light string/tubes to test out for the front yard.  I want to add these lights along the handrails of the front porch and if the are long enough to add a light border to some of the sidewalk.  I want lighting for security as well as some that adds a little curb appeal to the house. I don’t want to add to my electric bill so all outdoor lighting must be solar powered!  Actually any additional items that need electrical power I am going solar or some other renewable/off-grid power source.

Shopping at the local True Value store I got a small wireless weather station for only $20.00. It has a very nice setup for tracking temperatures and  humidity though it is lacking a barometer for measuring pressure.  I like it, as I can sit at the computer desk and get both indoor and outdoor temps and humidity levels.  My analog type thermometers tend to vary a lot because one is in shade and one is out in the south facing sun.  I don’t have a wind gauge but I have a couple of pinwheels in the yard and they give me a good idea on the wind and direction.  I picked up a small utility knife that uses plain safety razor blades and is lockable at several angles.  After several box cutter type blades this utility blade is a joy to add to my tool box.  Plus safety razor blades tend to be a lot less expensive to buy compared to most box cutter blades.

Snowed most of the day but it looks like we will only get a few inches.  I put salt on the front side walk last night and it did a good job of melting the snow until the afternoon. I like putting down a layer of salt before any winter snow as it makes shoveling the snow off the sidewalks much easier.  We tried out the “pet safe” salt on the backyard sidewalk. The pet safe salt did not do as well as the regular sno-melt salt but I think overall it was a good trade off between safety for the animals and a safe walkway.  Both Mom and I cleared the sidewalks but her metal shovel seem to skim off the snow leaving a layer behind and my plastic shovel did a better job clearing the sidewalks. Mom thinks it might have been the loose nut operating the metal shovel, but I think it might be the difference of how metal and plastic conduct cold. It might be best to have a couple of different types of snow shovels.  A lightweight plastic shovel for moisture heavy, but warm snowfalls and a solid metal snow shovel that can stand up to dry snow fall and chip away at any ice build up.  This is the first year I have used a plastic snow shovel but the difference in results seem significant to me.

I have a bit more food shopping left to do as Albertsons has a good sale on chicken thighs and legs for $.88 per pound and Fred Meyers has a New York roast for $4.99 per pound that I’d like to add one roast to the freezer. This a great time to stock up on those loss-leaders in the mega-marts especially if you can hold back a little cash to take advantage of sales.

Making extra pain relief and dry skin cream for winter.

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Between the weather changes, and my body’s evidence of how slow I was to learn the laws of gravity and inertia. I am adding more jars of the pain relief cream to my medical pantry. After I shot the staple into my palm I found my middle finger was very sore and swollen. Using the pain cream helped relieve the pain but I was very surprised that is also reduced the swelling in the finger.  This not the first time I have had a foreign object puncture my skin but it is the first time I used the pain relief cream and noticed how it reduced swelling and seem to reduce the ordinary heat and redness you get from any sort of deep wound.  Plus it took less than two days for all of the swelling to go down and never had much redness or hot spot with this puncture wound once I used the pain relief salve on it.  In less than a week  the puncture wound from the staple is pain free and I have had no problems with any sort of infection.

The dry skin salve is similar to the pain salve but I use Rice bran oil (naturally high in vitamin E) rather than the Coconut oil. I avoid using most citrus essential oils as my Mom and sister have a sensitivity to vitamin C/ascorbic acid.  I think that using the natural beeswax adds a protective layer to the skin which helps the oil penetrate as well as keep the skin from drying out due to wind. Most commercial products seem to use petroleum based wax (paraffin) since it is relatively cheap, but I prefer the feel of beeswax on my skin. Another advantage of beeswax is I can buy it locally, rather than depend on store bought paraffin wax.

To make the salve rather than use just a carrier oil adding the 1-1.5 oz. of beeswax for every 8 oz. of oil is a good ratio that has worked well with Coconut, Grape seed and Rice Bran oils.  Beeswax can be flammable so it is best to melt it slowly.  To melt/blend all the oils and beeswax I use a small 1.5 qt. crock pot on low, but to make my comfrey salve I use one of the “little dipper” crock pots to keep from any cross contamination of medical salves. Crock pots are cheap at thrift stores and yard sales so I buy different sizes/colored crock pots for my different salves.

A jar of salve last me a couple of months and I use it daily on my multiple pain areas. I like using 1/2 pint wide mouth jars to hold the salves. If you use a regular pint jar it can be difficult to get to the salve in the bottom of the jar.  I don’t  seal the jars but wait for the salve to cool and solidify before I add the lid. What is great is the jars are reusable and you can leave a little salve in the jar you can just refill it!

If you can find a bee keeper willing to sell beeswax and you are willing to clean it, you will save a lot of money on your salves and you might even bring in a few dollars selling “clean” beeswax at the local farmer’s market. Cleaning beeswax is easy and all you need to do is setup the double boiler, keep the heat just high enough to melt the wax and keep an eye on it so the double boiler does not run out of water and the heat stays low enough not to ignite the wax.  Keeping an eye on the wax melting is sort of like keeping an eye on your pressure canner. You want to keep a close eye on it to start so the temp. is correct but after that you just need to check it every 3-5 minutes to make sure everything is staying in the safe zone for heat.  I use a single burner hot plate I set on low with a double boiler but a crock/slow cooker on low would probably work just as well.

I don’t use any chemicals to “bleach” or clean the wax other than the strainers. I pour the wax into silicone pans for candy size molds but small metal bread loaf pans work well if you want larger chunks of wax.  After the cleaning the beeswax will be a dull amber color and have very mild, sort of sweet floral aroma.  I get my beeswax for about $6.00-$8.00 per pound if I buy 10-20 pounds.  I often see natural beeswax go for $4.00-$8.00 per oz. so you can see how much money you can save if you are willing to clean the wax yourself.

Quite a few people want both a side project  of making some medicines via essential oils or herbs. Some are getting into beekeeping or need a way to use all that natural beeswax. It is amazing how people used beeswax before petroleum products became cheaply available.  Real beeswax candles last longer than most commercially produce candles and the are simple to make at home.  Do a search on the internet on the uses of beeswax and I bet you will be stunned that natural beeswax is a great multi-tasker.

 

The kitchen and laundry room is “Minty Fresh”.

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Mice and spiders have been a major problem this fall. While the sticky traps are catching some of the mice, I know there is a much larger mouse population I’m not catching in traps.  Mom and I have smushed a couple of big spiders that seem intent on crossing into the house. With all the rain the DE barrier washes away and won’t stop insects entering the house.  I’m trying out peppermint essential oil in a couple of forms to get rid of the spiders and push the mice into traps. I hope the peppermint will encourage all vermin to stay out side of my house.

The two methods I am trying out:

  1. Cotton balls soak with several drops of peppermint oil.  The smell is pungent and the cotton balls can be placed in areas that are not easy spots to place traps.  My hope is the cotton balls will drive the vermin into traps or out in the open were the can be caught and or smushed.
  2. Peppermint spray: 1 cup of water, 20 drops of peppermint oil and a squeeze of dish soap to make it mix and that is easy to spray on walls/baseboards.

I don’t know if this will work but I have used crushed mint leaves to keep some insects out of the house.  The smell of peppermint is a bit over powering for a few minutes then it seems to dissipate quickly for my sniffer. I do not want to be cruel to mice or bugs. I would prefer to find methods that repel them rather than kill them. I won’t use poisons as Smokey the cat and Tucker the peke are mousers of a sort and I don’t want them poisoned if they catch a mouse.

Update on the rest of the critters: Diana the peke is finally responding to the steroid treatment. It would help if she would take it easy and heal up  before trying to keep up with the younger dogs. But Diana let me give her a bit brushing and did not growl when I picked her up. Early days yet on her healing but I think she is on the mend.  Sadie the schnauzer still is timid though we are trying to get her to interact with the pack and not be so sensitive.  I think Sadie was a bit neglected in a social way and never given any positive reinforcement nor was she encouraged to be part of a pack.  Dogs are social animals and it “breaks my heart” to see this little dog be so fearful.  Tucker the peke seems to have taken an interest in Sadie and Tucker loves life, so he should be a good doggie guide to bring Sadie out of her shell.

Speaking of Tucker the peke, he is finally getting the idea of chasing the cat is a bad thing.  It is a slow process but I hope we can break Tucker from chasing the cat and yet keep his love of chasing away the squirrels that attack my garden.  Tucker and Brodie were supposed to be Mom’s dogs but both have attached to me.

 

Finished up insulating the chicken shed.

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I noticed some very significant drafts while installing the radiant insulating barrier.  One draft was along the bottom wall and close to the laying boxes and the other drafts were high, along where the roof/walls meet. It seems that the shed was water proof but not wind proof.  The shed seems a lot less damp feeling and drafty since we installed the radiant barrier.  My hope is the birds will be more comfortable and will lay more eggs as they are no longer fighting drafts and the shed is a snug place for the birds.  We left the high vent exposed as well as the chicken door open during daylight hours so the shed can breathe and not build up moisture.  It has been warm with lots of rain but next week it will get cold and we will have a good test on how well the radiant barrier works on keeping the chicken house warm this winter. Yes, we are that anal-retentive enough to put a thermometer and test our theories, even if we are talking about a chicken shed.

Lessons learned: It hurts a lot when you shoot a 5/16ths staple into the palm of your hand.  I encouraged bleeding , washed with soap & water for a minute and then rinsed the hand in antiseptic. I did not bandage the puncture wounds  but placed a medic type glove on so I could work and the glove would contain most excess bleeding.  I need to get a tetanus shot from the VA.  The pain relief salve did great relieving pain as well as most of the swelling from the staple. Being smart on how to treat small wounds should be a big deal for most preppers and survivalist types.  I was a bit surprised that after stapling in the middle of my palm, my middle finger from the 1st to 2nd knuckle got swollen and very sore, though not the palm.  I must have caught a nerve or tendon with the staple.  I’m fine now and finger is working good enough to cut up 5 buckets of mill ends and the last of the panels for the chicken house.

Having a good working staple gun makes installing any roll or bat insulation very quick.  Mom and I worked about 7-8 hours over 2 days on installing the radiant insulation and putting up underlayment  board.  Insulating a shed over a weekend should be doable for most people. Total cost around $200.00 we have left over radiant barrier and two new staple guns purchased, that can be used for other project.

I have learned a lot about adding insulation/ foam and caulk by just doing these jobs. The chicken house is the first time I did insulating and adding panels from start to finish.   The chickens haven’t complained about the the “house” walls having a bit of a rough finish, but I have learned the value of using molding and caulk to give a nice clean finish. I can’t say we are close to the professional type contractors but overall I think we are doing a good on most simple jobs.

Albertson’s is having a great sale on snacks. 16 oz. Planters peanuts $1.49.  I know that peanut butter is one of the prepper shelf stable proteins.  I don’t care for the taste commercial peanut butter. I love salted peanuts as a quick snack or to add flavor to meals and deserts.  This a great time to add snack cracker, popcorn, chocolate, hard candies and nuts to your stock pile. I know I really missed having those snacks when I lived off my pantry foods.  I like to store snacks in metal popcorn tins with just a dusting of DE in the bottom to keep the snacks fresh.

I think for December all we have left is putting up/replacing the tape and plastic on the house windows. I want to add a few Xmas lights to the house to feel a bit festive.

Oh my gosh!  We found a house for Mom!  Just under a .25 of an acre on the edge of Nampa and shelves that would make any prepper drool. It has a city hook up for water and sewer, plus a  working well and septic tank.  It would need a wood stove but otherwise it is a prepper’s dream home.  Darn it, Mom has another divorce court date  in March of next year and she can’t do anything until the Divorce is settled. The house is $104 grand and she must have at least 20% down, to have equity and not pay mortgage insurance.  I would love for Mom to have this home and I can’t help make it happen!  Just a bit frustrated, I have gained so much by having Mom around. While at times things seem a touch difficult, mostly it is a good thing for me.  I think Mom deserves a home of her own and I will admit I’m biased.  I want Mom to have her own place, not because I want to kick her out, but because I want her happy in a home that she can do her own thing that makes her happy.  It is not easy for Mom being in one bedroom for “her” stuff and sharing other parts of my house that we can fit in. Please excuse the whine as we are fortunate in life. Just needed to work it out of my system.

 

 

 

Started insulating the chicken house today.

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The radiant insulation was very easy to push between the wall studs of the chicken shed/house. We did have a few problems getting the staplers to work correctly but if you have a good, light to medium weight stapler attaching the radiant barrier to the studs is very fast and simple. We did not use any of the glue to attach the the walls, though that may change on placing the radiant barrier on the ceiling.  There was much “wailing and cursing” dealing with the multi-purpose screws we used to attach some thin plywood underlayment to keep the hens away from pecking the new insulation.  Buy and stock up on self drilling screws if you use a battery drill and work primarily with wood. Trust me, any extra cost is mitigated by time savings and ease of installation. While Mom and I were installing the insulation along only 2 walls,  we saw over 4 degrees F. increase in temperature in the chicken house.  Mom placed a small temp. gauge in the chicken shed. We will be able to track how well the insulation affects the chickens and egg production.

I had to do a bit of cutting of the underlayment plywood we got from Home depot. I have a couple of cheap plastic saw horses, the best I can say is they are better than nothing. If you want something for working with lumber, invest in some heavy duty saw horses.  The small  18 volt battery powered B&D circular saw did very well cutting the thin underlayment  plywood. I FUBARed a couple of measurements not converting inside and outside dimensions of the shed. I screwed the pooch by not doing an internal measurement of the shed.  Those contractors and wood working guys know, always say measure twice and cut once. Those guys are smart!

If we can get all the staple guns working I think we should be able to finish off installing all the insulation and the basic barrier that will keep the hens from pecking at the insulation.  I may piss and moan about some of these jobs, but I am learning a lot about how to insulate, creating a vapor barrier as well as air circulation to prevent any sort of mold build up.  I can see using the radiant rolls of insulation might be a good solution to start insulating my shop.

I’m not knocking Practical Parsimony she is a smart gal, and she is in the deep south where things tend to be very humid and warm. That is a big setup for mold & mildew in her neck of the woods. S .Lynn is local to me and her birds are still roosting in trees and my aunt does not insulate her chicken coops. While I can’t these folks are wrong about chicken survival. My Mom’s chickens tend to have high egg production compared to most in the local area. It just makes sense, if a bird is cold it’s body will need to generate heat rather than egg production.

What is the worst that can happen?  Well, I have learned a bit about applying radiant insulation , also a vapor barrier to a structure. While it is warm for a couple of days it is forcasted to get all snowy/cold this weekend so we  can see if mold might be a problem.  If the birds are happy and lay eggs I’m happy!

I think we figured out the chicken house insulation setup

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Mom has a 6’x8′ wood storage shed for the chicken house. So it is not what most people assume that we are insulating a small chicken coop. The “radiant insulation” that should reflect heat in winter and reflect heat out in summer. Mom will add a few sheets of plywood that should keep the birds from pecking at the insulation. Mom tells me that the chickens are sort of like “rednecks” and like shiny stuff. So we will be adding a 4′ wall of plywood to prevent any pecking of the insulation. If needed, I saved all of the light weight garden fencing we can tack up to keep the birds away from the insulation above the plywood.

Mom kept her birds in an insulated shed before she moved in with me and the winter egg production stayed much higher than most people’s chickens in this area. Speaking just for myself I think Mom is going a bit over board on insulating this winter, but I think the radiant barrier will make the chicken shed much cooler in summer.  Mom got a nice window to add to the shed in the spring so the shed should have a good air flow/ventilation for the birds next year. Even if we are wrong about how warm we need to keep chickens this winter, I’m positive the “radiant barrier” will help keep the chicken shed much cooler next summer.

Very nice day today here in SW Idaho and it looks like we may see a couple of 50 degree days next week though it maybe a bit damp.  I got the front yard all raked up and placed the outdoor furniture in a protected area along side of the house.  We had some pretty brisk winds last week that finally blew the remaining leaves of all of the trees.  The garlic is sending up little green shoots through the straw mulch and the decorative kale still looks great, though it is not putting on a lot of growth.

Diana the”peke” got a bit  hurt trying to keep up with the younger dogs again. She is on predisone and tramidol to try and get her healthy.  Good news is she is eating and drinking water. Bad news is she is taking longer to recover and is very cranky. As long as Diana keeps eating and drinking I will keep working meds and keep her comfortable.   Diana is be 13 years old and that is old age for most dogs.  I won’t let her suffer if I can give her a chance at recovery.  If it is time for her I will let her go!

I’m flat out, worn out this year.  I’m not giving up, but I may have to take a bit of a break from the madness and work on stuff around the house.  Brew some beer, make some bacon and really work on my preps rather than be in crisis management all the time.  I want to work on the simple things even though they won’t be easy.

Cold weather insulation and an update on the air purifiers.

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Mom wants to start insulating the chicken house.While Mom was looking at some of the foam insulating panel at first. We are going to try out some reflective sort of insulation to start with on the chicken shed.  We want a bit of insulation, but what we are more interested in is eliminating any drafts. We bought a few rolls of a “radiant barrier” type product via Home depot.  The product is basically 2 layers of bubble wrap encased in a reflective cover and has about an R-6 rating on exposed walls.  We don’t expect the shed to become warm but we hope that the insulation will reflect out heat in summer and retain heat inside the shed in winter.  All of the reviews seem to think this insulated roll is great as a moisture barrier as well as a good insulator for summer and winter.  This is a small test project for on insulation, we can always add more insulation once  the basic barrier is up on the walls.

I added a new doggie door and caulked around the seams indoors and out. There is just a bit of cool air coming through if it is breezy but over all things are much better. I just bought a 4×6 throw rug with a rubberized type backing  on the back porch entry way, and I can’t believe how much difference that rug made cutting down the cold from the entry area.  I always thought it was the doggie door that caused the cold (draft) feeling, but it seems the tile floor laid almost directly on concrete acts like a huge stone radiating out the cold in winter. I don’t think the previous owners of the house spent a lot of money on insulation and making sure all those air gaps are filled or using caulk to finish up the add- on to the house.  Mom and I got the plastic up on windows but the dollar store plastic window tape sucks. I bought a roll of the Frost King tape $2.68 at Home Depot and we are going to re tape the windows. Now the dollar store window plastic seems to work very well and holds up to the heat of the hair dryer when the tape holds the plastic in place. My back up plan is to buy extras of the Frost King tape and the dollar store plastic for next year.  I really like the idea of  building interior storm windows, but that will take a bit of time as well as some trial and error, as my carpentry skills are rudimentary at best.

On how the Holmes  air purifiers and smokeless ashtrays are working out.  One of the three air purifiers seems to have a bit of rattle/noise. It is not bad I just move one of the quiet purifiers to Mom’s room and set the “noisy” air purifier in the computer room.  I don’t think even the  noisy air purifier is all that loud.  While I’m a smoker I have to say I think even my sniffer is coming back and my sinuses are starting to clear up.  A few small room air purifiers can make such a big difference in such a short time in my home that has a smoker.  Those little air purifiers seem to make a great difference  in “quality of life” for those that suffer from smoke, smog, asthma or allergies. I want to add a true HEPA filter around February or March of next year to see how well the air purifiers handle spring time allergens.

Firewood indoors: I have noticed the new firewood (fir) leaks sap when stacked close to the fireplace. The apple and elm did not leak out sap so I was not prepared for this bit about the new wood.  I bought a small log bin $19.95  from True Value that holds the logs and all sap and pitch will leak on the “bin” rather than stove’s  expensive stone pad.  I ran all of the out door grills through an oven cleaning cycle and it got a bit smokier than I anticipated.  Great news the air purifiers and the vent did a good job clearing out the smoke in the house , plus the oven and grills are all clean.

 

I figured out the BBQ turkey this year!

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I like BBQ’ing a turkey as it frees up the oven for baking bread, pies and casseroles that are Thanksgiving day favorites. This year I had about 16 pound turkey and it took about 4 hours to BBQ.  On average figure about one hour for ever four pounds of turkey if you BBQ. Eight pound turkey= two hours of cook time, sixteen pound turkey= four hours ect… I use Mesquite chunk charcoal and a charcoal chimney to start the charcoal. This year I had two charcoal chimneys on hand and after laying down a few of the larger chunks of charcoal in the BBQ, lighting up both chimneys +1.  I had more than enough coals to BBQ the turkey in about 30-35 degree F. weather with minimal wind.  I place a small broiler pan directly under the turkey and mound the charcoal up against the pan. In the broiler pan I add different liquids such as home made beer, white wine or vegetable stock along with any whole carrots, onions, celery or other stored veggies from the garden.  Every 20 minutes I  turn the turkey and on every hour I flip the turkey so that it will cook evenly. I try to start and finish the turkey breast down so all the juices soak into the breast meat. Rest the turkey for at least 20 minutes breast down after BBQing and you will get some of the best tasting and moist turkey breast meat you ever had!

How is cooking a turkey on the BBQ related to prepping?  Well you are cooking a fairly large chunk of dead animal giving a bit of smoke and if you brine the bird like I do you add a bit of salt and sugars that are preservatives. While  I would not store the turkey on your counter top, BBQing a turkey is a gateway on learning how brines, salting using peppers and sugars work preserving meats. How will you  do a real cold smoke of meats unless you practice?  After you get the BBQ basics down it is all about controlling the heat/ flavors via cooking or smoking.  Plus, BBQ turkey just tastes good.

I caulk the interior of the windows and I had many bad words to say about the previous owners. Then again I did not go out and caulk  windows even after living here at Casa de Chaos for over a decade.  This weekend it got a bit cold in SW Idaho, Highs in the 20’s, lows in the teens. So today I caulked windows and used spray foam on some of the larger gaps around the windows. No wonder we feel a draft when the windows have gaps around the window sill up to a 1/2 inch! Using spray foam cans, clean the tube and can nozzle within 24  hours and you should be able to use a whole foam can over several weeks.

I started cleaning the walls of the computer room and the walls were  disgusting,  covered in tar/smoke from my smoking as well as spider webs and a fly or two that expired via old age.  I don’t want to give up smoking but, I do see the downsides to smoking and I’m trying to mitigate them as I learn more and do some cleanup at home.  While adding in several the small “Holmes” air purifiers has helped Mom dealing my smoking. I think the little purifiers have helped myself, Mom and the pets with some allergies, dealing with the inversions that happen in Idaho and the purifiers did great when I cleaned all of the grills and Oven. It was very smoky in the house, yet no smoke detector went off.

JM Bullion has a wicked sick sale on silver and a bit of gold. I use JM bullion a lot as they offer free shipping on any order over $100.00.  I’m not a trader, I’m a stacker and any time I find silver for about $15.00 per oz. I will find a way to buy and stack.  I don’t think most people will get “rich” stacking silver and or gold (if you can afford it). At best you might maintain your buying power.  I think everyone should buy gold/ silver as a hedge against deflation or inflation. Get your basic preps on hand and if you find you have about $100.00 not dedicated to anything I would recommend getting a few PMs.

It is crazy that silver  is valued 70+/1 via gold. A more natural ratio is 9/1  or 15-1 gold to silver and that is not counting all the uses of silver. Getting and holding silver is not a get rich scheme.  At best holding silver” might” maintain your purchasing power. Buy stuff you will need first then buy PMs (precious metals) last. Thirty dollars getting a rain barrel is smarter than buying a silver at any price!

I added an air purifier to Mom’s room today for air improvement.

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Still early days for the “cleaning the air” test but the air seem to be to be improving for the dogs and us humans in the house. Some of the improvements I have noticed so far…

  • Mom does not seem to be snoring as much late at night and her sense of smell seems to be coming back. Mom has not had a good sniffer for years so she does not blame my smoking.  She was quite surprised that she started smelling the chlorine that is used to treat Nampa city water.  Mom stated today’s nap was the best nap she’s had in several weeks after adding the purifier to her room.
  • My sinuses seem to be draining.  While my nose is a leaky at times I find my sniffer is getting better especially about the smells of ashtrays and eliminating that odor.
  • The pekes seem to be breathing easier. Brodie the peke would do a sort of cough/hacking sort of like a cat with a hair ball.  A couple of the pekes would have something like an asthma attack though that is not a good description of the heavy snorting/breathing the pekes went through trying to catch a breath.  It was almost like a cross of irritation and over- excitement. Great news, we have not seen any sort of breathing problems or attacks since we have added the air purifiers.

Good news, Sadie the miniature schnauzer is doing much better about going potty outside though she’s still working on using the doggie door.  Sadie adores my Mom and sleeps in her room or on the couch in front of the fireplace. I think Sadie has been very good for Mom as Tucker and Brodie tend to hang out with me and Diana the peke. Sadie is becoming Mom’s most devoted companion.  I have never been married though I was in a long-term relationship and I know I was very hurt when things did not work out.  I can imagine a person could feel unloved or even unlovable. Most pets will love unconditionally and that can be a great ego boost as well as a reason that a person goes on making a life.  Having an animal that adores you and or depends on you can make a big difference in your mental attitude. I think with Mom’s divorce thing going over a year that having a devoted lil dog will will be very good for Mom and Sadie will do well with Mom taking care of her.

I got the front porch filled with wood. The wood rick is topped off and I filled 3 of the 18 gallon bucket with mill-ends. I hope Monday I can run the mower over the front yard and pick up/mulch the leaves that are dropping since it turned cold. I’ll need to move Smokey the cat out of the basement and do a little patrol while the weather is good. The weather man says don’t worry about the high clouds and the storm will hit the day before Thanksgiving.  Well, I worry as the weatherman’s timing has been a bit off this year.

So far adding the air purifiers has made life a lot better.  While we (preppers/survivalist) types tend to  plan for the worst case scenario. I see no reason why should not make our day to day living the best it can be at all times including today, or in a disaster.

More Fall work done and a couple of new toys to try out.

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While I don’t care much for strong winds, the black walnut trees and lilac bush leaves finally dropped to the ground today.  I got a bit frustrated by all the leaves and sticks the pekes always drag into the house via their “fluffy butts” so I got out the leaf blower and the leaf rake to try and stop all the tracking in of leaves.  My apple tree leaves are still green but by raking up the last of the walnut and lilac leaves we won’t have the pekes, or ourselves dragging in so many leaves and twigs coated with a sticky sap that clings to everything!  I don’t consider myself some sort of “neatnik” but I’m tired of vacuuming up leaves inside the house and combing or cutting leaves and twigs out of my peke’s fur.

I loaded up the wood rick today. This damp, windy weather has myself and Mom feeling a bit “chilled” and we used up a bit more wood out of the front porch rick this week than I had anticipated.  I filled the little garden cart with wood this last weekend so it was easy to top off the porch wood pile.  With this CIDP when and how much I can do physical labor can be a bit iffy at times. I was wiped out after stacking up the last cord of wood and filling up the wood buckets, but after a couple of days of rest I could get some chores done around the house.

Everyone has limits! Those limits might consist of time, physical energy or money but they are very real to each individual. I have lots of time because I’m disabled and SSD and VA provide my income. I’m not getting rich but I live a good life and can afford to buy a few gadgets and tools because I’m mostly debt free. I got a good deal on my house and my mortgage payment is lower than  most rent payments for an 3 bd. 1 3/4 bath home.

New Toy first impressions: Mom is really having a bad reaction to my cigarette smoke since we are starting to close off all windows, leaks and drafts. I will not stop smoking in my house, even for my Mom. You can call me names, trust me it won’t be the first time.  Now I am taking steps to “mitigate” my cigarette smoke. Holmes smoke grabber ashtray $10.44 on Amazon. Upside of the ashtray is does grab smoke and run it through a small filter. Mom says my smoking area seems to lack a smoke cloud.  Downside it only grabs the smoke from a cigar or cigarette while it sits in the ashtray.  The ashtray I bought is only battery powered and has no A/C backup or recharging function.

On the Holmes smoke grabber ash tray. Many complain that the ashtray is small. The tray is a bit small but is larger than most bar ashtrays that get dumped by bartenders. The ashtray is about 4 inches  square and about an 3/4inch deep. This ash tray will not hold more 10 cigarette butts or 2-5 cigars before you have to dump the ash tray but that should not be a problem for most people. I don’t get folks complaining about the size of the tray if what they want to get rid of smoke and odors. It is not all that difficult to dump the small ashtray in the trash when full.  My wish would have Holmes/Amazon offer a battery powered smokeless ashtray that is rechargeable via both 12 volts or 110 volts AC.

The little air ionizer for a car runs  on 12 volts and has an electrical 120-240 volt adapter/converter. The specs on this little air cleaner is for only 12 square feet, or about a sedan. I have plugged the little ionizer next to my computer desk and the air feels a bit different, though I’m not sure it is working to eliminate smoke from the room. I bought a Holmes air purifier with optional Ionizer and it seems that the air is getting better/cleaner. Mom says she is starting to feel better,  even my sinuses are finally starting to drain/clear out and the air is less stuffy /feels better and the house smells cleaner.

A great thing about the Holmes HEPA type air purifier as it will accept a replacement of a true HEPA filter. On the Amazon reviews of the Holmes air purifier for $34.99, many  people complained it was loud. I have been running the air purifier on high for several hours and it’s about as loud as your basic 20 inch box fan on medium setting. The low setting on the  air purifier is very quiet, about “white noise” level. For a great bargain I would buy the discontinued Holmes HEPA type air purifier for $34.99 and install a true HEPA filter and not buy the new/ improved air purifier that is a HEPA type and costs  about $10.00 more at Amazon.

I know the “air purifier” is not equal to an over-pressure type air-exchanger but I hope to cut down on air borne type viruses, bacteria along with allergens and smoke in the house.

 

 

Snow incoming next week?

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Saturday was a very nice day for getting chores done.  I got the front yard mowed and picked up most of the leaves with my mower. I dumped the mower bag in the front yard beds as plant protection plus add some “greens and browns” that I hope will break down over the winter and will add good stuff back into the soil. The white “flowering kale” is still doing great, the purple kale is doing okay but it did not put on new growth like the white kale this fall. My little front yard garlic bed has put up new shoots through the straw, so I think the garlic will be okay for next year even though I was a bit late getting the garlic in the ground this fall.

I topped off the wood rick on the front porch using the garden cart and we have plenty of mill end bucket ready to burn. I still feel a bit vulnerable about my dependence on others for wood.  I can’t change anything about my disability and I am somewhat dependent on others for my basic needs. If you are disabled or an oldster and can’t work 8-12 hours a day all you can do is stock up and try to get things correct for bugging in.  I have planned for a bug out, but I know my odds for survival will be very low.

The black walnut tree is done shedding leaves in the back yard. I put the last batch of “killer” leaf mulch down in the alley. A flat 4-6 inch layer of the black walnut “killer” mulch stays in place through 20-30 mph winds and the mulch looks okay when it spread in flat deep layer.  I don’t think the city will send me a nasty-gram about my pile of leaves. My goal this winter is to augment the soil for growing stuff in the raised beds.  Use natural methods to kill off weeds and add plants that augment the soil or thrive in poor soil of the alley way garden. I’m still working on types of crops to plant that thrive in the many micro-climates in my yard and start growing up/vertical rather than the traditional way of growing a garden.

I did a test of “Gorilla Glue” and so far it looks like a good replacement for super glue. I repaired a pepper mill and I like that Gorilla Glue does not set quite as fast as super glue, holds great and clean up is a bit easier compared to super glue.  I think super glue is great, but most tubes only give you one application and then the super glue clogs up and you have no other use for the tube of glue. The Gorilla glue sets slower and even if the small applicator clogs you can still use glue stuff by removing the “cap/applicator”tip.  I bought a small package of 4 tubes of Gorilla glue that came with applicator tips for each tube for $6.99. I’m pleased with the purchase as even if the applicator clogs the tube of glue still flows.

I am thrilled with my new payment system and building up an emergency fund. I even added a little bit more silver to my small stash this month. I have used my food storage when I got blindsided on a large vet bill to free up money to pay the bill without going into debt. Now that I have most of my basic needs covered in an emergency, I have stored some cash for a small emergency. I was a bit slow on on the storing cash idea but having emergency cash on hand is almost as important as having food and water stored. At this time, I should be able to buy and install an 18 inch dishwasher, a new ceiling fan in the kitchen and free up a lot of space for a real dining table and add extra storage space in the kitchen in December. My Xmas gift to myself and who could be more deserving LOL!

While I think some sort of economic collapse is coming to the USA, I am doing my best to try and insulate myself from any down sides. I think this Xmas season is going to be nasty economically as many average Americans are beyond broke and up their eyeballs in debt.  For example my “income” about $20,000  yet I got a credit limit on a credit card of $8,000. If I maxed out that card, there is no way I could pay more than the min. payment and the interest would keep me in perpetual debt. Now I will pay off the debt early and avoid the killer interest rate of nearly 26%. I can see how people become slaves to debt. The big Banksters get the near 0/.25% interest rate from the FED. Joe sixpack is doing well if he get can get a signature loan for 6-8% interest and a credit card under 20%. Plus it was not all that long ago a saver could get  5.25% interest return on savings. Now you are lucky to get 1-2% return and the banksters don’t bury you in fees so you actually lose money by saving money in a bank.

I think you are better off keeping cash at home rather than rely on the major banks “protecting” your cash.

Wood is done at least for a couple of months and turkey on sale

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Gosh, I’m wiped out from stacking the latest bunch of wood and cutting up mill ends. While I’m tired and sore it is really nice to have all of the wood stacked and now I will see just how much wood I have on hand to burn this winter.  So far November weather seems to be about normal for temps and just a bit damp.  The “super el nino” has not made the fall weather super warm here in SW Idaho. If my memory serves SW Idaho usually had a bad winter (lots of snow and cold) if the East coast got hammered with a hard winter. Usually we got lots of cold and snow earlier than the average and then those east of the Mississippi got slammed later in the season.  I suspect SW Idaho may see a weather pattern similar to the late 70’s to the early 80’s.  I’m not a huge fan of extreme weather but Idaho was a place for folks that could not hack Alaskan type weather rather than California transplants looking for a new state to screw up with Progressive political stupidity. Perhaps if the weather gets nasty enough they will move on and annoy some one else. Though I would not wish progressives on anyone other than Wash. DC . That seems a bit appropriate.

Boise is getting very Progressive with buying up “Open Spaces” with tax payer dollars and I really don’t like that policy, as it locks up land that can’t be used for starter homes for young people and drives up rents. I love parks, bike paths and green belts but if the “city buys up land”  it will drive up housing costs, young people can’t afford to rent, buy a home or start families that will add “fresh blood” to  a city.  Plus “open spaces” cost the city up front and do not generate any tax revenue.  Guess what home owners your property will go up in value as well as taxes paid for all of those “open spaces” that do not generate any taxes. This “Open Space” policy will hinder any sort of  organic growth via young folks starting  families, buying homes or starting a small business.  We are cutting our own throats with this short term thinking.

Sorry about the Real Estate rant, but on to shopping. Albertson’s has Turkey for .69 cents per pound if you spend $25.00 shopping. Spending  $25.00 shopping  for food is dead simple.  Get all the whole turkey on hand you can afford. I was wrong about chicken prices spiking in my area via Avian flu as chicken meat prices have been good in Idaho though egg prices spiked up a bit. I think turkey is a “loss leader” at most stores and they hope to make up the cost in other items. Beef prices are starting to drop under $3.00 a pound on the round and chuck as well as hamburger. So far I have been holding down my meat costs by buying loss leaders.  I bought some turkey breast meat at Cash & Carry for $2.28 per pound but we use this meat as pet treats and a carrier for pet medications. While this may seem sort of expensive at first, if you look at the per pound cost of most pet treats versus the cost of Deli type turkey breast is very good buy if you are willing to slice it up at home.

Something to think about for your shelter/ bug in area is air quality. I doubt many of us can afford to  create an over pressure air exchange system. But most of us can afford to buy a couple of  small room humidifiers, a dehumidifier and air purifier. Now I don’t expect a lot of performance from a cheap machine but as preppers we need to control odors as well as smoke from any indoor cooking. If you are a smoker you will carry that odor in your clothes and every time you light up.

I’m not telling you to quit smoking, that is your choice. But you might want to take a few extra steps if you want to keep smoking and be somewhat safe.  Buy some “vaping/ electronic cigarette” products you can use instead of smoking and stay away from the strong flavors as I have read many non-smokers/ vapors can smell those odors. Get a few small air purifiers as the will help clean the air of cooking odors as well as smoke plus several small air purifiers will work better with any power generator compared to one “whole house” air purifier. It is a lot easier and cheaper to power only one or two air purifiers that need 100-200 watts of power than a big air purifier that needs over a thousand watts of power. Many people suffer from allergies via pet dander, pollen and dust and even a small air purifier might make a big difference in their quality of life.

Time for another test and this one will be about air quality. Mom is irritated by my cigarette smoke since we closed up the window this fall.  Air purifiers placed around the house along a few 12 volt systems that work in the car and the jumper packs that are independent of the grid, are ready to go for the test.   A good thing if the air purifiers work, I won’t have to clean my walls, windows  or dust as often. I hate to dust!

Weekend chores,a killing mulch and holiday bazaars

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I cut up enough mill ends to fill/top off 6 of the 18 gallon buckets for the front porch. One wagon load of the regular wood topped off the small wood “rick” on the porch. I have to say I really like the wood I bought this year as it burns clean, without all the ash of the elm I burned last year.  I can see that we might run out of mill ends this winter from the first load I bought over two years ago.    I was not happy with the first mill end delivery that had lot’s of trash, weeds and needed to be cut to fit a wood stove .  I think the old boy selling mill ends  expected to dump his load and drive away. I will buy more mill ends next year as they are great for starting a hot and fast fire in the wood stove. But I will make sure I have the wood storage area set up for all types of wood. I don’t want have to cut the wood if I don’t have to cut it up. I will have the tools on hand to cut the wood if needed, but I don’t want to have to cut the wood in order to burn it. I have one more cord of wood to be delivered from Mom’s wood guys this week and I need to trim/prune the trees this week after the wind starts dying down.  While I can’t heat the house with what wood trimmings I get from my yard, I’m a little surprised by how much wood is available via trimming and pruning my trees.

My walnut trees seem to lead the way in fall and I’m trying something a bit different with all those leaves. Walnut leaves extrude a compound that is a plant killer. It’s about the tree eliminating any competition for minerals, and water around the tree base.  I have read many gardening sites that warn about adding walnut leaves to a compost pile or using walnut tree leaves to protect plants in fall/winter.
Walnut leaves sound like a great “killer mulch” for weedy areas like my alley garden. While the walnut leaf will inhibit growth, it will not stop strong plants nor kill off good microbes or insects. For my test of the killer walnut leaves, I have made a layer of 4-6 inches thick in front of my RV in the alley way. I hope this layer of leaves will kill off any goatheads/ puncture vine and cheat grass.

Next spring if the “killer mulch” works I will need to add plants I like to take the place of all the nasty weeds I killed out.  So far the sunchoke plants are doing great and I noticed sunflowers really grow well in the alley. I like the mossy rose as a basic ground cover and it seemed to do well in the wood mulched beds. I think some berry plants might work in the alley with a trellis and planting them in big tubs to limit spreading.  My flowering kale is still growing this fall and is getting bigger through frost warnings and other weather stuff. The kale is in the front beds of the house are somewhat protected via the house walls, and  I added some straw mulch to the front beds.

I like going to Holiday bazaars and hitting new thrift shops. I added 2 new flat sheets via Deseret industries for only $7.00. I got cookies but I think I like the Methodist cookies better than the Presbyterians cookies.

You should think about the how/ why and what you are storing for food. While I can’t quantify a fall in quality of any food item I’d like you to think about why you buy and store items you use and rotate.  We preppers know we should rotate everything but some times we drop the ball, or at least I drop the ball from time to time.

Store Coffee, Tea and soda for the Caffeine kick.  I don’t seem to suffer from caffeine withdrawal, I  saw it a lot in the Army and the “migraine” is close/ worse than to a dehydration headache. I ‘m not telling you to buy green coffee beans for storage . I want you to ask yourself how much ground coffee you have stored? and is enough for your “emergency”?   Basic coffee cans will store ground coffee for 24-36 months. I know as I have used 3 year old coffee that tasted great. So do you need to store/ buy green coffee beans? Unless you have  stock piled at least two years worth of coffee and a few small cans for barter and rotate your coffee cans. If you have 2 years worth of coffee on hand and rotate and suspect we might face a disaster in the 3-7 year time frame. I would recommend buying green coffee beans.

Priorities will change and things people will demand stuff of the government or the local central power, it will be interesting to watch. I think you should stock up now for a year + on all basic goods,  but is up to you. I would not buy green coffee beans until you have stored at least 24 months (rotating) of ground coffee and have another 3- 6 small cans on hand for barter.  Plus all green coffee needs to be roasted and the smell/aroma can be quite pungent.

Things might be simple but it does not mean anything will be easy. You will have trade offs on what you want to accomplish.

Plastic panels installed over the chicken pen, Update cutting mill ends via the circular saw.

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I scavenged several plastic roof panels from a neighbor that were renovating.  The original plan was to cover the wood area but the panels were a bit old and heat cracked, plus the roof over the wood area needs to be re-built.  Mom and I decided to use the roof panels over the chicken pen and then place the tarp over the top of the panels to cover any gaps.  We hope having the roof panels under the tarp will eliminate water pooling, causing the tarp to sag and will keep the chicken pen area clear of puddles and ice this winter.  I think the pen roof looks much better for shrugging off the weather.  We had 30+ MPH winds for a couple of days few days and the “new” roof did very well in the wind. Now we are waiting to see how the roof panels hold up during the rest of the fall weather.  I was a bit surprised by how quickly Mom and I got the panels and then covered every thing with Mom’s big tarp. Overall the tarp is  taut covering the roof panels, we used zip ties on the sides and bungie cords on the front of the tarp.  Hopefully the roof will flex a bit in windy weather but have good strength shedding any rain or snow.

I used the little B&D circular saw to fill two of the wood buckets. I did a lot better physical energy wise as I’m learning how to use the saw properly. It has taken me a bit of time and practice learning the correct way to use some of my tools. A great side effect of cutting up mill ends is I am learning how to cut wood with out wasting  good lumber. Speaking for myself, I sort of thought you cut the wood you needed and never give a thought about working with the grain or against the grain cutting wood.  Yes, I was a bit slow on figuring this out.  I have a coupon from Harbor Freight for the 10 inch miter saw $88.88 and the 12 inch compound miter saw $139.99 double h recommended. Either saw should should be a good compound miter saw for cutting up my mill ends plus built in shelves to turn my front bedroom into a library.

I had a kind of strange reaction to saving a bit of cash this month. I have been preaching about paying a few critical bills ahead if you can afford it.  I have worked hard to try and get a bit of ahead on paying my basic bills ahead and this month I finally made it happen. I have the cash on hand to buy the miter saw but I don’t want to spend the money on the miter saw until I have more cash on hand.

I’m saving a bit of cash, and it is simple if not easy. I’m slowly getting ahead of the power curve, paying my bills ahead of the due date.   I can’t say I’m free, as I still have my house debt, but I have broke free of living paycheck to paycheck  and paying late fees because of timing of my checks. Now I’m working on  cash for an”emergency fund” rather than just falling back on my storage if an emergency blind sides me.

The  50 cent, $10.00 rolls of coins are a great for my little “mad money” fund work great for yard sales and the Xmas bazaars, since most folks selling don’t have cash on hand for breaking large bills.  Plus 50 cent coin roll might contain a pre 1964 90% silver coin or a 65-69 40% silver coin. I have not got lucky finding a silver coin but I’m not losing out as all coins do have a face value of 50 cents.

 

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

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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”

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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

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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.

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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

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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…

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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!

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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

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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,  zerohedge.com 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.

 

Yard and garden work/cleanup.

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I conned Mom into getting my Strawberry planter squared away while I weeded the front yard flower beds and planted a daffodil bulbs and some pansy for additional color next spring.   My hope is I will add enough plants I like to start choking out the weeds I don’t like have in the front beds. The front yard house bed I planted Colorful/Flowering Kale and it is looking great with the cooler weather. This bed will be my leafy veggie bed next year. I planted a multi-color swiss chard  in a raised bed and we are still getting a nice harvest of leaves.  Mom also got a great harvest of tomatoes out of the back yard raised bed garden today. My first mossy rose plant was looking a bit sad, but it has perked up a lot after getting a few chunks of wood dropped on it as well as moving the mulch around it.

The “Good Neighbors” are officially moved out and the new neighbor is moving in this week.  I feel a bit sad for myself but I’m very happy for N & L making a bit of profit on selling the house and moving on with their lives. They are the type of people that will create a great community wherever they go.  Luckily, for me they still have many friends and family here in the valley so they will be visiting from time to time. I know it is darn easy to talk about “kids these days” in less than positive words.  N & L and their friends give me a lot of hope for the future.

I know the future may appear bleak and things look sort of dark.  It is always this way when the paradigm changes. Keep on prepping build your skill set and building real wealth you can pass on to your kids.  The tale of the glass half full of water, an optimist states it is half full, a pessimist states the glass is half empty. A realist states the glass is always full, even if it is full of air. Be a realist, it is up to you fill the glass!

Wood delivered today!! Huzzah

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I am so glad that I got the wood area cleaned up last week!  Off loading the wood and getting it stacked only took about 2 and half hours with Mom and I working.  A huge bonus, I did a lot better job stacking the wood correctly this year. Last year Dad chucked in the wood and I had to burn, then  I stack the wood as space became available. I might order another cord of wood to finish filling up the wood area since I’m not sure how this wood will burn in my fireplace.  I have never started a winter with a neatly stacked wood pile so I’m not sure how much “neatly stacked” wood I will burn over the winter.   Over all Mom and I have done most of the winter prep, though we need to caulk the windows in October and will put up plastic to seal the windows and then all winter prep will be done.

I did not have much of a “last minute shopping list” for the Government  budget shutdown as I stocked up last week via sales.  I added a few items to this week’s shopping list as I had the cash on hand and a bit more motivation to stock up on some trade goods.  I had to ration myself as I have sister on EBT and she might need a “care package” if the government shuts down. Luckily I have several types/ levels of care packages on hand. I think the PTBs will pass a CR or Continuing Resolution and we can face this again in December. Just so we know how much we need those “Congress critters” and government workers.

I don’t suggest anyone panic, as I see the point of prepping is to avoid any panic. If you prep you should be ready for not shopping for at least a couple of weeks or more.  You have nearly a week to add a few last minute items if the government shuts down and EBT cards are  not refilled October 1st.  An event that probably won’t happen in October, but some day soon I think if “SHTF”  happens and you should be ready to stay home and to protect you and yours.  I got a couple of bottle of booze today at the liquor store and I had no idea about prices, because I seldom buy liquor.  I got couple of a pints/fifths and saw the prices for stocking up on booze. Whining about the price of stuff is not helpful. Get the stuff stored and then complain about the cost of stuff!

What I recommend is you keep stacking and learning new skills as many of my readers have already built a good stockpile of the basics , before I got a clue about prepping.  If you are prone to panic, stash away any credit cards and go to cash or stack more PMs (Precious Metals).  Have cash/emergency fund on hand to pay the bills for 1-3 months at a min. Get into a local bank or Credit union for any “direct deposit”  money and keep cash on hand for any small bills or basic shopping.

I think you should protect yourself buying goods with no counter-party risk.  You will always need food, water, energy and security.  Get out of all debt other than your mortgage if you have low interest rate first and do not take an interest only ARM/ HELOC.  All credit/debt must evaluated critically if it is the right move for you.  Debt can make slaves of us all, but you can use a bit of debt to improve your economic position. By used cars for cash, don’t pay interest on credit cards and pay all bills monthly.

I bought two refurb. laptops on credit and it is so tempting to get stuff now and pay later but I can’t call the economy in 2 weeks little lone in 2 months.  I’ll pay off  debt as quickly as possible (October) and if the stars align I’ll buy a bit more on “credit if I don’t pay interest.

Overall we have a great setup going into winter.

Warning !! Food stamps may not get paid Oct. 1st if the government shutsdown

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A government shutdown Oct. 1 could immediately suspend or delay food stamp payments to some of the 46 million Americans who receive the food aid.

The Agriculture Department said Tuesday that it will stop providing benefits at the beginning of October if Congress does not pass legislation to keep government agencies open.

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_CONGRESS_BUDGET_FOOD_STAMPS?SITE=DMN&SECTION=HOME

We had a trial run of this October of 2013 What did you do during the great ebt blackout . People were very upset and a lot of food got wasted as shopping carts full of food were abandoned and people just left the stores.

I will be finishing up my shopping and getting my gas in the next couple of days. But I’m not taking any other special precautions at this time. If the government shuts down I’ll probably just stay home and see how things work out.

 

Busy weekend organizing stuff and deliveries of rock, wood and shopping

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I was very surprised to get another load of rock delivered via good neighbor N.  The good neighbors are moving and made the “rock” offer before they got a such a quick offer to buy their house. Mom’s parking area is completely covered in rock and should make getting around this winter easier and safer with her bad knee.  We put down a thick layer of the rock. Hopefully between the rock, wood ash and the  homemade vinegar weed killer, the weeds  in the alley will finally die off!   I made a lot of progress on the alley way garden this year.  I want to add more plants that do well in poor soil, love lots of sun and are drought tolerant. I have seen sunflowers do well in the alley so I might add a few plants as a border and next year add a bit of shade for plant that need a bit less sun.

I got a lot of the wood area cleanup done. I pulled down the make shift plastic and got a good look at the construction of the roof.  It is worse than I thought and needs to be torn down and completely rebuilt. I will need to get a few more treated 4×4 posts and  a couple of 2x6s to frame the roof correctly. I’m not sure I will get all of the work done this fall so I will cover the wood with tarps a quick fix and start buying up more lumber as I can afford it. While things are not quite the way I planned, I don’t mind doing some quick fixes until I can afford to put up a proper roof. Plus once the roof is built I will have extra tarps, which are great to have on hand for quick repairs due to storm damage and making shelter from the elements.

The $100.00 cord of wood arrived this weekend.  Well it wasn’t a cord of wood nor was it regular firewood, it was all mill ends and I already have plenty of mill ends on hand. I had a bad feeling about ordering this wood as it seemed to good to be true. I did not take delivery, though I felt a little bad that the guy did all that work for no pay off. Perhaps they will be more forth coming on what the wood is and how much the they are really giving people for the money.

Albertson’s had a great sale on Quilted Northern toilet paper, Brawny paper towels and MJB coffee for $4.99 each. 12 packs of the toilet paper, 8 packs of paper towels and the 26 oz. can of coffee.  The “catch” is you had to buy at least 6 on sale items total to get that price  though you could mix it up buying 3 of one item and 3 of another.  While I don’t mind buying store brands but, many have gotten very cheap as far as quality. Getting a good name brand product I like is worth spending the money when it goes on sale as you tend to get a “good bang for your buck” it seems you use less product for the same results.

One of the things I love about preparing is once you get your basics stockpiled you can shop only the sales/loss leaders and you save a lot of money! I just spent about $75 dollars at Albertsons and all I got was 72 rolls of good quality toilet paper, 18 rolls of great paper towels plus increased my stock pile of coffee.  I don’t feel the need to grocery shop weekly as I’m good on my other food/ household items though Cash & Carry had chicken quarters for .39 cents a pound if you buy 40 pounds. The chicken is packed in 10 pound bags so you don’t have to store the whole boxed case if you have a small freezer. I have plenty of chicken on hand now!

I can’t speak for all preppers but for me, what I consider a six month supply on hand for any item means I should start looking for sales. A three month supply of an item means I need to shop and build up my supply even if the items I want are not on sale but can be had for a good price. I’m doing all of my prep on a fixed income so I have to work sales.

Tagged: cord of wood