Saturday, 10 October 2015

07:55 – Barbara is off to Mt. Airy today with Frances and Al, going to some sort of autumn fair.

Here’s What’s Behind Our Obsession With Zombies FTA:

It may not be a zombie apocalypse, but much of America expects some kind of apocalypse. In a beautiful city a mile or so from the Pacific one recent sunny Saturday morning, a line developed outside a gun store well before it opened. In the Age of the Zombie, the end of the world will take place not far away but at close range, and many Americans seem to have resolved to go down fighting.

The zombies are surrounding us and in many cases already among us. Like many other nice middle-class neighborhoods, ours is surrounded by infestations of underclass scum. Go a mile in any direction, and you’ll find yourself in the midst of a zombie hellhole. It’s becoming obvious to more and more middle-class people that this will not end well for one side or the other, and we’re determined not to be on the losing side. The government isn’t going to fix this. Eventually, we’re going to have to fix it ourselves.

Posted in prepping | 5 Comments

Friday, 9 October 2015

08:12 – Barbara is off to the gym this morning. She’s finished yard work until more of the leaves come down, so she’ll run some errands that she was putting off during our recent heavy rains. Then we’ll work on science kit stuff.

We started watching Little House on the Prairie yesterday. I’d never seen it, since I was in college and grad school when it started its run. Barbara saw the first season or two before college, and liked it then. It’s set on a farm in rural Minnesota in the 1870’s, and seems to be a good family-oriented introduction to the prepper way of thinking: self-reliance, overcoming challenges, working if you expect to eat, and so on.

Here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • We made a trip up to Sparta, NC to look at houses, and ended up putting in an offer on one of them. If the owners accept our offer, we’re scheduled to close on the house early next month. In that case, we should actually be moved up there by the end of the year, although we’d still be down here in Winston a lot to get the present house ready to go on the market.
  • I ordered more open-pollinated seeds for the heirloom seed kits and started a culture of mixed species of Rhizobia spp., a nitrogen-fixing bacteria that can increase legume yields by an order of magnitude. I’ll use that culture to produce a shelf-stable suspension in phosphate-buffered saline, which can then be reactivated simply by reculturing it in a dilute mixture of table sugar and beef or chicken broth.

So, what precisely did you do to prepare this week? Tell me about it in the comments.

Posted in relocation, weekly prepping | 11 Comments

Thursday, 8 October 2015

08:38 – Barbara is starting today on packing up to stage the move. Even if this particular deal falls through, we will be moving, so it makes sense to get as much of the seldom-used stuff as possible boxed up and labeled.

We’ve been saving good cardboard boxes and packing material for months, and we get a lot of deliveries. The finished area downstairs is now so full of boxes, some broken down and some not, that it’s difficult to navigate the narrow corridors through the ceiling-high piles of boxes. Eventually, Barbara will get those filled, sealed, labeled, and ready to go.

Fortunately, much of our long-term storage food is from the LDS Home Storage Center and Augason Farms and is in cases of six #10 cans each. That’s something like 250 #10 cans, already boxed up. Much of the rest is already in boxed or shrink-wrapped cases of stuff like Bush’s Best Baked Beans (15 boxes at 8 cans/box), cases of canned soups, meats, vegetables, fruits, and so on (several dozen cases), bottled water (a couple dozen cases), assorted pastas and sauces (several dozen cases), and so on. Along with a bunch of miscellaneous stuff.

Then there’s science kit stuff, both finished goods inventory and components. I have to manage that carefully to make sure we can ship kits uninterrupted during the move. There’s a lot to do, but we’ll get it done.

Posted in Barbara, relocation | 35 Comments

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

10:51 – We spent yesterday up in Sparta looking at houses. We decided to put in an offer on one of them. It’s a beautiful house, sitting on about 1.5 acres of level ground that gets plenty of sun. It’s a short sale, which complicates matters somewhat because the bank is involved.

The house was built in 2006, but it was built right, with solid cherry floors on the main level, cherry cabinetry and good built-in appliances in the kitchen, and so on. The primary heating and AC is via heat pump, but there’s also a ducted woodstove in the basement that can heat the entire house if necessary.

One of the other homes we looked at was obviously owned by preppers. One of the basement rooms had three 10-foot islands of five-shelf 2-foot wide floor-to-ceiling shelving units. Three hundred square feet (30 square meters) of shelves, all filled with canned goods, dry staples, and so on. I don’t know how large the family is, but I’m guessing there was food for one year for a family of six or eight people.

Then as we were driving down the road, our real estate agent announced out of the blue that she was a prepper, and had been all her life. She’s a couple years older than I am, and she said she’d grown up on a farm and she still maintains a large garden, hunts and fishes, shoots recreationally, keeps tons of stored food, has the ability to heat her home off-grid, and all the other stuff preppers do. I wasn’t surprised when she added that that was the norm in Sparta, where even people who don’t consider themselves preppers are semper paratus. It’s just part of living in an isolated mountain town.

So now we’re waiting for the sellers and their bank to approve or reject our offer. We should hear from them within the next few days.

Posted in prepping, relocation | 46 Comments

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

08:19 – We got a couple dozen biology kits and science kits built yesterday, so our inventory status is back up to a reasonable level for this time of year other than for forensic science kits, which we’ll work on today and tomorrow. I also issued two orders yesterday for more open-pollinated seeds, which is the last of what we need for the first batch of two dozen heirloom seed kits. Dehydration and testing of those begins tomorrow.

I’ve been reading a scholarly tome on seed saving, and the numbers are pretty interesting. The viable shelf-life of seeds varies significantly by species, but even more important than species are the moisture level and storage temperature. Once you get the moisture level below about 15%, each additional 1% reduction in moisture typically extends shelf life by a year or two, down to the optimum at about 7% or 8% moisture. Below that, seeds tend to “harden” and have reduced germination rates because water is unable to penetrate the seed to allow germination if the seed is planted normally. But such hardened seeds can be revivified if you allow them to rehydrate over the course of several days to a couple of weeks in a high humidity atmosphere.

But storage temperature is even more important to shelf life. Taking 70 degrees Fahrenheit as a baseline, each 10F reduction in storage temperature on average doubles the viable shelf life. That means that keeping seeds in the refrigerator at 40F extends their shelf life on average by a factor of eight. Freezing them extends it even more. On the seven different species the author of the book tested, the least stable seed type retained 95% of its initial germination rate after 11 years frozen and the most stable was calculated mathematically to retain 95% of its initial germination rate for more than 300 years. That’s very good news indeed.

While we were watching TV last night, Barbara asked me if I’d thought about long-term storage of dog food. She said she understood that Colin could eat what we eat, but wanted to know if there was any way to repackage his dry food for long term storage. Unfortunately (or fortunately from Colin’s point of view), there isn’t. Dry dog food is in fact rather moist, and it contains a lot of oils and fats. We could stick it in the dehydrator to get it down to a moisture level suitable for long-term storage and then pack it in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, but Colin wouldn’t want to eat it after that treatment. Actually, the best way to store dry dog food is in its original bag, where it has a shelf life of at least a year and probably two. So, as Barbara said, if things get really bad Colin is going to end up eating what we eat. Colin isn’t even slightly unhappy about that prospect.

Posted in science kits | 28 Comments

Monday, 5 October 2015

08:41 – Barbara is off to the gym this morning. While she was still working at the law firm, she did the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays after work. This is her first full week of going during the day on Monday-Wednesday-Friday.

The wet weather is pretty much past. In the last 10 days, we’ve had about 6 inches (15 cm) of rain, which is almost two normal months’ worth. Everything is sodden, but we’ve been lucky. No damage other than limbs down, and only minor power blips. It could have been a lot worse, and in surrounding areas it has been.

We got a bunch of chemical bags and small parts bags for biology kits built yesterday. Barbara also taped up a couple of dozen shipping boxes, so today we’ll build another batch of biology kits. We’re still accumulating materials for the open-pollinated seed kits, and will begin production work on those this week and next. They won’t be ready to ship until next month, mainly because we have to do germination testing and there’s no way to speed up nature.

I commented to Barbara last night that I was surprised by how many readers were pre-ordering these kits, which are basically the proverbial pig in the poke. She said she wasn’t surprised at all, because we’ve spent the last five years shipping science kits that demonstrate that our company provides value for money. Interestingly, although the seed kits won’t be ready until next month, we’ve almost sold out the first batch. I’d planned to keep two seed kits aside for our own use, but I decided that since the next (larger) batch will be ready in December or early January, one will suffice for now. That means we have two-count-’em-two kits remaining available for readers who want to order them, first-come-first-served. If any of you regular readers/commenters want to order one or both of these remaining kits, you can do so for $100 per kit if you place your order in the next few days. To do so, go to, choose the option to send money, and transfer $100 for each kit you want to orders (at) thehomescientist (dot) com. Make sure to include your mailing address, either street address or PO box. Your telephone number would also be helpful, just in case we need to call you for some reason.

10:19 – We’re now officially out of the first batch of seed kits. I decided to keep the offer in effect for now, so if you want a kit or kits for $100, please go ahead and order. The only thing is that your order will no longer go out with the first batch next month. Instead, it won’t ship until December or early January.

Posted in Barbara, prepping, science kits | 26 Comments

Sunday, 4 October 2015

09:56 – The morning paper reports that more than a fifth of third-graders in our school system don’t read well enough to pass to fourth grade. That’s really saying something, considering the standards are already very low. No word on the breakdown of these students, but everyone of course assumes that they’re exclusively or nearly exclusively black and Hispanic. The school system’s solution is neither to hold them back in third grade nor to “socially” pass them into fourth grade. Instead, they’ll start next year in a “transitional” unnumbered grade between third and fourth. Presumably, the year after they’ll still be unable to meet the standards and will simply continue in limbo, warehoused until they turn 18. At which time, they probably still won’t be able to read at a fourth-grade level, and county taxpayers will have footed the bill for more than a decade of very expensive day care.

We’re getting kit stuff organized and inventoried. Yesterday, I finally found the missing 200 inoculating loops, which were in the bottom of a shipping box covered with 20 one-pound bags of rubber stoppers. Today, we’ll fill chemical bags and build another batch of biology kits.

We also received our first shipment of open-pollinated seeds, as well as a bunch of desiccant packets we need for making up the heirloom seed kits. The latest two additions are hulless oats and barley, both of which are grain crops that are much better suited to home gardens than is wheat. We’ve also added the herbs Stevia, which provides an extract that is 200 times sweeter than table sugar, and St. John’s Wort, which is a natural anti-depressant. The kit is currently up to about 4.7 pounds of 20 varieties, totaling more than 70,000 seeds. This week, we’ll begin dehydrating and then testing germination rates of the first group of seeds.

As I mentioned Thursday, our target price for this kit is $150, shipping included, although it may end up higher than that. We intend to begin shipping the first batch of these kits next month. If any of you regular readers/commenters want to order one or more of these kits, you can do so for $100 per kit if you place your order in the next few days. To do so, go to, choose the option to send money, and transfer $100 for each kit you want to orders (at) thehomescientist (dot) com. Make sure to include your mailing address, either street address or PO box.

Posted in prepping | 30 Comments

Saturday, 3 October 2015

09:32 – I was kind of hoping the MSM would adopt the “some asshole” idea for the next mass shooting, but of course they’re reporting the asshole’s name instead of making sure no one knows who he was.

We’re getting a lot of rain, about 5″ (12.7 cm) in the last week, but much less than some nearby areas. Sparta, where we’re considering relocating, had 14″ through Thursday morning, with another 12″ or so expected for Thursday through Sunday. Between the rain and the gusty winds, we’ve had a lot of large branches and some trees down. We had two or three momentary power failures yesterday and overnight, but nothing major so far. The ground is saturated, though, so we may have some big trees going down and taking out power.

I fired up our natural gas logs last night and let them burn for an hour or so, just to make sure they worked and kept working. On low, they put out enough heat to keep the upstairs comfortable when it’s above freezing outside. On high, they put out as many BTU/hr as our furnace, and can keep us warm even when outside temperatures are below zero Fahrenheit. I’m pretty comfortable depending on them for emergency heating, although natural gas isn’t as reliable as it used to be. I was just reading, for example, about the natural gas failure that occurred in Taos County, New Mexico in February/March 2011. The natural gas company intentionally cut off gas to large areas in Taos County for days and in some cases weeks, while outside temperatures were as low as 17F. Apparently, natural gas supples were inadequate to provide for everyone, so the gas company arbitrarily decided to cut off rural areas. The US congress investigated the matter, but that didn’t help those people who had been left for long periods without heat. I’m glad we have some stored propane and the means to use it for emergency heating.

10:45 – Someone emailed me to ask if I’d thought about including soybeans in the seed kit, both for their protein and their oil. I had, but I decided against it mainly because soybeans are a poor choice as an oil source. Most people probably assume that they can be pressed to obtain the oil, but the fact is that all that soybean oil you see in Costco, Sam’s, and the supermarket is obtained by solvent extraction rather than pressing because soybeans don’t like to give up their oil under pressing. Sunflower seeds, which will be included in the kit, are a much better source of oil. They are prolific, provide huge amounts of edible seeds, and don’t cross-pollinate with beans, which is an issue when you need to save seeds that will breed true.

Posted in personal, prepping | 36 Comments

Friday, 2 October 2015

08:28 – Barbara is settling in well to working for ourselves rather than for a paycheck. One of the things she was looking forward to was being able to go to the gym during the day instead of after work. She had been going after work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which made for late dinners and short evenings those days. Yesterday, she went to the gym during the day. She’ll probably start going three times a week instead of twice.

I’ve started preliminary work on a new line of science kits that we’ll introduce in 2016. The working title for the line is Science Basics, and the kits will be designed to sell for $99 each. They’re intended for students who will not go on to major in science in college, and will provide reasonable rigor and scope for a standard one-year laboratory course in biology, chemistry, or forensic science. I’m not too concerned about cannibalizing sales of our more expensive full kits. It’s a different market, and homeschoolers who are on a tight budget, which is to say many of them, should welcome these inexpensive kits. I’ll also design them to minimize the use of any really hazardous chemicals. They’ll also be micro-chemistry based to minimize clean-up and disposal issues.

Here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • I ordered some gun accessories from Midway USA, including a magazine loader for AR-15 mags, a tactical sling for the Ruger AR-556, four more 30-round Magpul AR-15 magazines, and two Tapco 30-round magazines for the Ruger Mini-14. That takes us to eight total mags each for the AR-556 and Mini-14, which should be sufficient. We’re in decent shape right now on .223/5.56mm ammunition, but once we get relocated I want us both to shoot familiarization on both of those rifles. Rather than shoot up the good stuff, I think I’ll order a few test 20-round boxes of the cheap TulAmmo stuff from If it functions reliably in both rifles, I’ll go ahead and order another case or two. The stuff is steel-case and so not reloadable, but at around $0.22/round the price is hard to beat, assuming it works reliably.
  • I continued research into the Sparta, NC area as a possible relocation destination. I was pleased to find the Alleghany County Rifle Association has a range outside Sparta. If we end up buying a house in the Sparta area, one of the first things I’ll do is join that club. There’s also a good gym for Barbara. There isn’t much shopping, but that’s okay. We can make the half hour trip to the Walmart Supercenter in Galax or West Jefferson whenever we need to, and we’ll be coming down to Winston-Salem for a Costco run every month or two. And there’s always and
  • I managed to get in a few hours’ work on the prepping book. As of now, I intend to devote at least two full days a week to working on it until it’s complete.

So, what precisely did you do to prepare this week? Tell me about it in the comments.

Posted in Barbara, personal, science kits, weekly prepping | 15 Comments

Thursday, 1 October 2015

09:01 – Yesterday was Barbara’s last day of work at the law firm. As of today, she’s working for our own company. Now that she has control of her own time, she’s heading over to the gym this morning. This afternoon she’ll be doing science kit stuff, starting with filling a bunch of chemical bottles.

I called Amazon yesterday about the problems I was having with my Fire HD7. They’re sending out a replacement, which should arrive tomorrow, along with a return label for the old one.

Science kit sales are down. Not a single order so far this month.

I started work yesterday on the heirloom seed vault we’ll offer in the book. So far, we have maybe 2/3 of the final lineup, including high-nutrition and/or flavorful vegetables like beans, beets, carrots, corn, onions, peas, sweet pepper, tomatoes, and turnips. For herbs, we have basil, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. We’ll be adding several herbs, including perhaps stevia (a no-calorie sweetener, although it’s hard to grow outside the far south), St. John’s wort (a natural anti-depressant), tobacco, and so on. We’ll also be adding peanuts and sunflowers as sources of oil, and perhaps poppy.

There’s a lot of work to be done. Obtaining suitable seeds is the least of it. We need to dry the seeds to 7% to 8% moisture before packaging them, and I need to write detailed instructions for planting, harvesting, preserving, and seed-saving.

The varieties included will be suitable to grow in temperate climates, including all of the continental US. Hawaii and particularly Alaska have issues all their own, but most or all of the varieties should do acceptably well in those two states as well. We’re also focusing on reliable varieties with reasonable disease resistance, which is to say ones that are easier for inexperienced gardeners to succeed with. The quantities included–at least 100 seeds of each variety, and often several thousand–are intended to be sufficient for a family of four to six people, with allowances made for newbie mistakes, crop failures, reduced germination rates after long storage, and so on.

One of the annoying things about a lot of similar products is that the packaging could almost intentionally be designed to encourage people to put them on the shelf and forget about them rather than actually plant some of the seeds to check viability. You open a #10 can and find a bunch of paper envelopes inside. There goes your seal.

We’ll use a foil-laminate Mylar bag as an outer container, which can be resealed with a hot clothes iron. We’ll use various sizes of plastic vials, tubes, and bottles to contain the individual seeds. We’ll encourage people to open the bag when they receive it and plant at least a few of each type of seed so that they can get some experience growing them. The package can then be resealed with a clothes iron and stuck in the freezer, where it’ll remain useful for many years to come. This is what we ourselves will be depending on if we’re reduced to growing our own food, so you can be sure we’ll be making this kit as reliable a source of food as we possibly can.

Our target price for this kit is $150, shipping included, although it may end up higher than that. We intend to begin shipping the first batch of these kits next month. If any of you regular readers/commenters want to order one or more of these kits, you can do so for $100 per kit if you place your order in the next few days. To do so, go to, choose the option to send money, and transfer $100 for each kit you want to orders (at) thehomescientist (dot) com. Make sure to include your mailing address, either street address or PO box.

Posted in Barbara, science kits, technology | 60 Comments