Friday, 9 December 2016

09:52 – Eric from Blue Ridge Electric Co-op just called to say he’s on his way to install the propane tank and hook up our gas cooktop. Sadly, they are out of the 220-gallon propane tanks we ordered, so they’re going to install a 330-gallon (~ 1,250 L) tank instead. My heart is broken. Now we’re going to have 50% more propane stored than I thought. Call it 30,000,000 BTUs. Enough to run the large 15,000 BTU burner in our cooktop for 2,000 hours.

It was about 19F (-5C) with snow flurries when I took Colin out at 0700. There’s a strong breeze with gusts of 30+ MPH (~50 KPH), which takes the wind chill down well below 0F (-18C). And the really cold weather isn’t supposed to arrive until this evening and tomorrow. We’ll be staying indoors as much as possible.

I’ve seen a couple of articles lately talking about how the number of preppers is declining hugely because of Trump’s election. Sales of LTS food, guns, ammo, etc. are falling precipitously because a lot of folks supposedly think Trump is going to fix everything. I don’t doubt that the general mood of the country is more optimistic with Trump as President-elect, nor do I doubt that sales of those things are declining, but I don’t believe anything has changed significantly. Other, perhaps, than that Trump is much less likely to get us into a nuclear war than Clinton would have been. But all of the country’s vulnerabilities remain: a very fragile electric power infrastructure that could be severely damaged by any of several events; a transportation infrastructure that is wholly dependent on continuing supplies of fuel, which in turn are dependent on an aging and failing system of pipelines, which are themselves very vulnerable to terrorist attacks. A society divided in half, with each half literally hating the other half, one of those halves totally dependent on government handouts and the other, productive, half sick and tired of being exploited to benefit people they despise. And a financial infrastructure that is teetering on the edge of collapse. Keep prepping, because things are going to continue to get worse, even with Trump in charge.

Posted in personal, prepping | 7 Comments

Thursday, 8 December 2016

09:40 – Barbara just called from Winston. She has a few more errands to run, then lunch with friends before she leaves for home. She should be back in Sparta mid-afternoon. We’ll need to get the kitchen cleared for the guys from Blue Ridge Electric Co-op, who are arriving tomorrow morning to install a 250-gallon propane tank, run lines, and install our gas cooktop.

I’m re-reading the first three books in Franklin Horton’s Borrowed World series. If you haven’t read them, you should. Horton is one of the very, very few recent authors whose PA novels deserve an A+. There are other decent new-breed PA novelists–notably Angery American (AKA Chris Weatherman)–but Horton stands head and shoulders above the scores of other recent PA novelists I’ve read. His books are as good or better than classic PA novels like Earth Abides, Lucifer’s Hammer, and the like.

After I read the first Borrowed World title, I emailed Franklin to congratulate him for doing a stellar job. We started corresponding regularly, and at one point seriously discussed co-authoring a non-fiction prepping book. Franklin regretfully concluded that he just couldn’t fit it into his schedule, at least right now. He’s currently putting the finishing touches on his fourth and latest Borrowed World novel, and I offered to do a “sanity check” read-through, which he immediately accepted. I’m re-reading the first three right now to make sure I have context for doing a kitchen-cabinet pass on his first draft.

Posted in personal | 11 Comments

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

08:51 – Pearl Harbor was 75 years ago today. A date which will live in infamy.

My father’s mother almost got lynched that day. She’d washed an antique quilt and hung it over the balcony railing to dry. The quilt, which we still have, was a beautiful white with a pattern of red swastikas on it. In 1941, of course, the swastika hadn’t assumed its current meaning. To my grandmother, it was just a quilt made with an Indian pattern. Americans didn’t yet associate the swastika with Nazi mass murders, although most were aware of its recent connection with Germany. One of her neighbors called the police to report a German spy (because of course spies always put up billboards to advertise what they’re doing …) and the cops showed up at her door to find a puzzled middle-age lady. She packed that quilt away and it didn’t see the light of day for another 30 years or so.

Barbara took off about 0730 to head down to Winston. She’s running errands, having lunch and dinner with friends, and staying the night with Frances and Al. She’ll return home tomorrow afternoon. Meanwhile, it’s wild women and parties for Colin and me.

Email overnight from a long-time reader who raises a good point, and one I don’t emphasize enough: balancing preps.

He’s concerned that Cassie is focusing exclusively on food storage, to the exclusion of other critical categories. Actually, that’s not the case. Food storage just happened to be their weakest category, so they’re focusing on shoring that up. With a well and a year-round spring, they’re in good shape on water. They’re reasonably well-armed, have a decent stock of medical supplies, and so on. It was food that was the gaping hole in their preps, but they’ve addressed that now.

But the point remains valid. I’ve been prepping for about 50 years now, and my primary concern has always been maintaining balance. It does you no good to have a decade’s worth of stored food if you run out of water. Some folks have a serious armory, but have let other categories slide. Having having a dozen AR-15s and 100,000 rounds of ammunition does you no good if you run out of food. Or water. Or medical supplies. Or if you can’t keep your living area warm in winter.

Unfortunately, most preppers are guilty of such imbalances. It’s human nature. If you like to shoot, it’s natural to focus too much on guns and ammo. If you enjoy ham radio, it’s natural to focus too much on communications. And so on. The trick to maintaining balance is to focus your efforts on stuff that’s not “fun”. Look at each area and decide which one or ones need to be shored up. Then pick out the one you least want to work on and get that one done. Then the next one. And so on.

Thanks to OFD for this link. FTA:

Justin Nojan Sullivan, 20, of Morganton pleaded guilty in an Asheville courtroom to one count of attempting to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries, federal officials said in a news release. He planned an attack at a concert, bar or club where he believed as many as 1,000 people would die, they said.

“Justin Sullivan planned to kill hundreds of innocent people,” said John A. Strong, special agent in charge of the FBI’s office in Charlotte. “He pledged his support to ISIL and took calculated steps to commit a murderous rampage to prove his allegiance to the terrorist organization.”

Sullivan said in court that he planned shootings in North Carolina and Virginia that would cause mass casualties, U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose said. He also said he had “frequent and direct communications” with Junaid Hussain, an Islamic State member who asked him to make a video of the attack, she said.

Morganton is about a two-hour drive south of here on US-18. It’s easy for those of us in rural areas to get complacent, but it’s also a big mistake.

Posted in news, personal, prepping | 50 Comments

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

10:00 – Barbara is off to the gym and library. She was planning to take Bonnie into town to run some errands today, but Bonnie canceled. That was probably a good thing, since it’s currently raining, breezy, and just over freezing outside. When she gets back from the gym, she’s packing up to head down to Winston first thing tomorrow morning. She’ll stay with Frances and Al tomorrow night and head back to Sparta on Thursday. It’ll be wild women and parties for Colin and me.

The rest of my latest Walmart order arrived yesterday. A case of six #10 cans of Augason Farms Potato Shreds. It’s SOP around here. We just finished one can, so I ordered another case. Unusually for food that’s packaged for LTS, these potato shreds are actually cheaper than the Ore-Ida frozen hashbrowns that Barbara used to buy. A 23-ounce can costs $7.12, but by the time they’re rehydrated that 23 ounces turns into about four or five times that mass of the equivalent of fresh potatoes, or the equivalent of about three $3.00 32-ounce bags of the Ore-Idas.

Email overnight from Cassie. Although she voted for Trump, she’s concerned that Trump’s election increases the likelihood of severe problems in the short run, but she voted for Trump because she thinks that another four years or more of the progs running things would inevitably bring on complete collapse. Smart girl.

She and her husband have been busy, prepping on a budget. Their primary concern is food. She works as a checker at the local supermarket and has been buying significant amounts of bulk staples two or three times a week. The first couple of times no one thought that was strange, but as she says all of her coworkers now know that she’s a prepper. A couple of them have commented on it to her, and said they thought it was a good idea. Now one of them has started doing the same thing she’s doing. Between that and stuff they’re ordering from Walmart, Amazon, and Costco on-line, they’re now in pretty good shape. Cassie figures they’re up to at least a six-month supply for the two of them and plans to keep at it until they’re up to at least a one-year supply. The only thing she’s dreading is all the repackaging they have to do, which they haven’t gotten started on yet.

Posted in Cassie, personal, prepping | 25 Comments

Monday, 5 December 2016

10:30 – Winter is forecast to arrive here Friday, with highs in the low 20’s (~ -5C), lows in the single digits (~ -15C), and some snow/ice. I’m actually kind of looking forward to it.

Frances and Al spent the weekend up here to celebrate Barbara’s birthday. Yesterday was a pretty miserable day weather-wise, so they decided instead of driving home through the mess yesterday afternoon to stay overnight and head back today. Colin will probably be maniacal today with them gone. He loves having overnight visitors, which means more people to pester to play with him and more people to beg human food from.

Sometimes really pisses me off. I got a delivery from them the other day. Among the items I ordered were:

Rumford Premium Aluminum-Free Baking Powder, 10 oz 4 $2.09 $8.36
HERSHEY’S Cocoa, Unsweetened, Pack of 3, 16.0 OZ 1 $6.81 $6.81

What they actually shipped to me was four 8.1 oz cans of the baking powder and one 16 oz can of the cocoa. This is not the first time this has happened, and every time they make a shipping error it’s in their favor. I’ve made hundreds of orders from Amazon, and they have never shipped less than I ordered.

Posted in personal | 145 Comments

Sunday, 4 December 2016

11:38 – We moved into our house one year ago today, and I think Barbara finally has it pretty much the way she wants it.

Frances and Al came up for the day yesterday. Barbara immediately put him to work. She’d had five cubic yards of fill dirt delivered Friday afternoon. She wanted to get the sides of the driveway built up against the concrete pad. Yesterday morning, she unrolled and pinned black landscaping plastic along the edges of the drive, while I came along behind her tossing shovelsful of dirt on top of the plastic to hold it down in the stiff breeze. Frances and Al showed up not long after we’d finished that. Barbara and Al wheel-barrowed and spread the remainder of the pile on the plastic. The amount worked out just right.

Barbara was working on Christmas cards the other day, and I suggested we put Lori on our list. Barbara said we should get her a small gift as well, but then remembered that Kevin, our USPS carrier in Winston, had told us they weren’t allowed to accept gifts. But, as Barbara said, Lori is as much a personal friend as our USPS carrier, so we could give her a personal gift. Lori is a fellow prepper, so I ordered her a Sawyer Mini SP128 water filter. If she doesn’t already have one, she needs one. If she has one, she needs another.

Posted in Lori, personal | 59 Comments

Saturday, 3 December 2016

09:40 – I think it’s funny to watch the progressives panic. Their latest campaign seems to be an all-out attack on “fake news sites”, which ironically are the sites that are reporting truthfully. And the attacks are being made by the actual fake-news sites like CNN, AP, NYT/WP, and ABC/CBS/FOX/NBC/PBS. Those traditional “news” sites have completely destroyed their credibility with the American public, and are now in flat-out panic mode. What a bunch of progressive scum. It’s nice to see them getting what they deserve. Well, not what they deserve. That would be seeing them hanging from lamp posts. But at least seeing their lies starting to catch up with them.

Another lurker has begun posting comments. Welcome to Eugen (Romania). It’s always interesting to hear what folks from outside the US think about things. The first time I ever had extensive face-to-face contact with anyone from eastern Europe was in 1981. I was dating Lee Bowie, a girl who went to Clemson University, and driving down from Winston frequently to spend weekends with her. She rented a house, and her housemates were two girls from Poland, Cassia and Goga. Their take on the US was fascinating. They were actually afraid of uniformed cops, which I guess was understandable. Just as we’d all grown up watching TV and movies about nasty Soviet spies being foiled by heroic CIA agents, they’d grown up watching nasty American spies being foiled by heroic KGB agents. They were scared to death of the US military and nuclear forces, just as we were scared to death of the Russian military and nuclear forces. They were just normal people, and quickly came to realize that we were just normal people as well. I think all of us quickly realized that they were afraid of our government and we were afraid of theirs, both with good cause.

The only real difference between us was that we were used to plenty and they were used to shortages. The first time I visited Lee in her new rented house, I carried in my bottle of Coke from my Jeep and opened her freezer to stick it in and rechill it. It wouldn’t fit in the freezer, which was literally crammed full of frozen pizzas. Lee explained that Cassia and Goga had discovered supermarkets. In Poland, they’d had to stand in line for food and take whatever was on offer. They couldn’t believe that in the US they could just walk into a supermarket and carry off as much as they wanted of whatever they wanted. We had some interesting discussions after that about the relative efficiency of capitalism and free markets versus socialism and a command economy.

Posted in news, politics | 47 Comments

Friday, 2 December 2016

10:01 – It’s Barbara’s birthday today. She’s pretty hard to buy gifts for. She doesn’t wear jewelry or perfume, and I can’t buy clothes for her. So usually I end up just getting stuff she wants for around the house. One year I got her a crowfoot flank-drive flare nut wrench set. This year, I got her a pressure canner (Ma Kettle) and some miscellaneous cast-iron cookware to use on her new gas cooktop.

We finished watching series one of The Pinkertons on Netflix streaming and Mercy Street on Prime streaming. The former was average and the latter above average, but both were packed full of cuties, notably Martha MacIsaac and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, respectively. At first, I thought it was just me, getting older and starting to have trouble telling brunette cuties apart, but Barbara agreed that they could easily be confused for each other and that she had trouble telling them apart.

I used to think that attractiveness between men and women was purely a matter of evolutionary biology. That’s why heterosexual men of any age are most attracted to young women, those of child-bearing age, and women are attracted to men of any age who would make good reproductive partners. What puzzled me for a long time was that, in my experience, gay men are also attracted to young, fertile women even though they have no desire to have sex with them. Last night, I finally realized why: men of any sexual orientation and age are attracted to young, fertile women because their mothers were young, fertile women. Essentially all men spent their boyhoods dependent upon, protected by, and being cared for and loved by young, fertile women. So it’s no wonder that most men are attracted to and protective towards young women. Well, duh. It’s embarrassing that it took me 63 years to notice the blindingly obvious.

Posted in Barbara, personal, streaming video | 81 Comments

Thursday, 1 December 2016

10:19 – It’s Birthday Eve for Barbara, who turns 3E tomorrow. Wow. When we got married, she was only 1C and I was only 1E.

We ended up getting 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) of rain, which is basically almost a month’s worth in two days. Things have cooled down, and Saturday night into Sunday morning we’re expecting a blizzard with as much as a tenth of an inch of snow.

As usual, kit sales have started to increase after Thanksgiving. We’re down to one chemistry kit in stock, so the top priority for today is to build more of those. We have all of the subassemblies in stock, so it’s just a matter of packing them up. This afternoon, we’ll get more macaroni repackaged into 2L bottles. We have about 40 five-pound bags left to repackage. About 2.7 pounds fit in a 2L bottle, so we’re going to use a lot of bottles.

Posted in Barbara, personal, prepping, science kits | 76 Comments

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

10:26 – I’m closing the month. Barring any orders that come in today, we’ve done about 80% of the revenue that we did last November. I’m not too concerned. Sales by month year-on-year bounce up and down. One month, we may do 60% of the prior year’s revenue. The next month, we may do 150%. Unless we have a monster December, we’ll finish 2017 behind 2016 revenues, but not hugely so.

It’s been warm and wet. It was 57F (~14C) when I took Colin out this morning, and that’ll probably be our high for the day. There’s a cold front moving in and we’ll be returning to seasonal temperatures, with cool days and nighttime lows near or below freezing. Fortunately, we’re getting our rain out of the way while it was still warm. From Monday night through this morning we had about 2.6 inches (6.6 cm) of rain, with maybe another inch forecast for this afternoon and evening before things clear up. This rain was badly needed, not just because the whole area was getting very dry, but to help put out the wildfires that have been ravaging several states in the Appalachians. The closest they’ve gotten to us is 30 miles or so, so the only effects we’ve seen have been smoke and haze. Our house sits in the middle of large cleared fields with not many trees nearby, so we should be safe from wildfires generally.

But it’s still a relief for the whole area to get three inches (7.6 cm) or so of rainfall. That’s most of a month’s worth of rain in a couple of days, and will go a long way toward extinguishing the wildfires to our south and west. Unfortunately, the rains came a bit too late to save many mountain communities, including Gatlinburg, TN, which is just over the NC border. Our thoughts are with the Gatlinburg residents, who had to evacuate on zero notice. Three dead and hundreds of homes destroyed. It must have been a shock for Gatlinburg residents. One moment, everything was normal. The next moment, cops were knocking on their doors, telling them to evacuate immediately. Obviously, people who had a grab-and-go bag packed and ready to go were the fortunate ones. Many people lost everything.

We did make peanut butter fudge yesterday, and it turned out pretty well. Barbara isn’t a big fan of fudge, but she tried it and said it was good. The recipe reminded me of Calvin & Hobbes’ chocolate-coated sugar bombs: combine a stick of butter and half a cup of milk or half-and-half in a medium size saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and add 2.25 cups (16-7/8 ounces or 480 grams) of brown sugar. Stir and bring back to a rolling boil. Boil for two minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in 3/4 cup (7-1/8 ounces or 203 grams) of peanut butter and one teaspoon of vanilla extract and blend thoroughly. Pour over 3-1/2 cups (14 ounces or 397 grams) of powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth, and pour into an 8×8″ baking dish. Chill until firm and cut into squares.

I got email yesterday from a guy who’s facing a problem that many preppers encounter and asked for advice. Most preppers’ spouses think they’re at least slightly nuts, but sometimes it goes further than that. Some spouses are so affected by normalcy bias that they are actively hostile toward taking any prepping steps. I’ve been lucky in that Barbara is pretty much on-board with prepping, and gets more so each time she reads a news headline. Things are not normal in this country. Far from it. And they seem to get worse every week.

So what’s a guy like him to do? His wife doesn’t just look at him funny or make snide remarks. She literally pitches a fit, screaming and yelling at him if he buys any long-term food or takes any other steps to prepare for bad times. She’s convinced that there’s nothing to worry about, that all of these terrorist attacks, targeted assassinations of cops, etc. etc. are just aberrations and that things are completely normal with no serious threats on the horizon.

At first, he was buying cases of canned goods and so on at Costco and stacking them on the garage shelves. He had several cases accumulated, and one day arrived home from work to find they’d all disappeared. His wife had loaded them into her vehicle and drove them down to the homeless shelter, where she donated them. She told him in no uncertain terms that she wouldn’t have him hoarding food in her house. So he replaced them and hauled them over to a friend’s house who offered to store them in his basement. Now he’s afraid that his wife is going to start checking their credit card statements and freak out if she sees big Costco charges.

He asked if I had any advice, and about the only thing I could suggest is that he tell his wife that he’s going to continue stocking up whether she likes it or not. I think he’s afraid that she’ll divorce him, literally. I told him that many of my readers/commenters were in similar situations, if not quite as extreme and that I’d ask all of you for your advice to him.

I’m thankful every day that Barbara is reasonable about prepping. She thinks I go overboard, particularly in terms of the quantities of food we’re putting up for LTS, but she goes along with it anyway. As I’ve told her, I don’t really expect anything catastrophic to happen but there is a small but significant chance of a real disaster, maybe 3% per year, and that adds up to a scarily high chance of something really bad happening over the next five or ten years.

I don’t know what I’d do if I were in this guy’s shoes.

Posted in cooking with LTS food, personal, prepping, recipes | 69 Comments