Thursday, 28 July 2016

09:07 – The AC is fixed. It turned out to be a blown capacitor. Living without AC from late Sunday night to yesterday afternoon was unpleasant, but no worse than that. I don’t know if this heat wave has been an all-time record for Sparta, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it had been. It very seldom gets up to 90F in Sparta, so a run of several days over 90F is unusual to say the least. At least we weren’t in Winston, where the heat-chill numbers have been near or over 100F during the same period.

I was a bit concerned that the power would fail, with everyone running their AC flat-out. We had numerous flickers, but no outages. Blue Ridge Electric Co-op did an excellent job of coping with the heavy demand. We haven’t had even a momentary outage since we moved into the new house in early December of last year.

Today, we’re working on science kit stuff, some of it in our work area out in the warmish garage, but most of it in the house where the temperatures are normal. Once we get this batch of biology kits boxed up and stacked in the house, it’ll be back to labeling and filling bottles for more kits.

Email from Brittany. She and her husband have been out buying more sacks of bulk staples in preparation for another packaging party this coming weekend. They’ve also bulked way up on their canned goods. I said earlier that I suspected they’d be up to a six-month supply of LTS food by the end of this month and a one-year supply by the end of August, but it looks like they’ll hit one year’s worth by the end of this month.

In reality, they’ll be well over a one-year supply, because they’re aiming at 1.25 million calories per person, or just over 3,400 calories per person per day. That’d be generous for four adults, let alone for their family of two adults and two young children.

They’re repackaging all of their dry bulk staples in 7-mil foil-laminate Mylar bags from the LDS online store. Those are great for long-term food storage, except that they’re not rodent-proof. Although they don’t have rodents in their basement, Britanny and her husband talked about alternatives to protect their bagged food against a future rodent problem. They decided against using steel garbage cans to store the bags. Instead, Brittany’s husband is surrounding the shelves he’s building with heavy steel mesh, which should do the job.

Posted in Brittany, personal, prepping, science kits | 34 Comments

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

09:28 – We’ve now been two full days and nights without air conditioning. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be an issue in Sparta, NC, but the heat wave that’s affecting most of the country is also affecting us. Our indoor temperatures have been around 86F (30C), which is at least 10F too high for comfort. The AC guy is supposed to be out this afternoon to fix it.

We’re building biology kits in our work area out in the garage today. Ordinarily, when it’s very hot outside we do stuff in the house and wait for a cooler day to do garage stuff. At this point, it makes no difference because it’s as warm in the house as it in the garage. This whole thing hasn’t been as much a problem for me as it has been for Barbara. My optimum room temperature is 74 or 75F, while Barbara’s is more 68 to 70F. So, while 82F is warm for me and 86F is sweltering, those temperatures are extremely uncomfortable for Barbara. At 86F yesterday evening, it was actually warm enough that I considered switching from long pants to shorts. I think I may have some shorts around, although the last time I wore shorts was probably 30 years ago.

We just added another country to our science kit business total. We got an order overnight for a biology kit and a chemistry kit to ship to Sri Lanka. I think that takes our total countries to something like 40. Of course, a lot of those are onesies and twosies. Probably 98% of our shipments outside the US go to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and western Europe, with an occasional one to India, Japan, or eastern Europe, and one every once in a great while to other Asian countries, Pacific island nations, or Africa. But, other than Antarctica, we have shipped to all continents.

09:49 – I think it was Dave Hardy who first pointed me to the Woodpile Report. I came across the following yesterday, extracted from Remus’s post #436.

This week I’ve been vacuum-packing even more dry foods in Mason jars. There must be room in this place for one more five-foot stack of flats. Um, somewhere. Next up is more oatmeal, cornmeal and shelled nuts. And as backup for my backups, I got a bunch-o’-Ramen noodle soup, slit the packages and ran ’em through the FoodSaver. They’re cheap and take up little room. Add water, 190 calories. Not a gourmet treat, but they’re calories.

Calories are everything when prepping for a food deficient future. When it all hits the fan, those who think they need an interesting variety of food are in for an epiphany. Food isn’t entertainment. They’ll not only eat much the same thing day after day, they’d crawl over broken glass to do it. Choosiness will be a barely credible memory. Today’s over-hydrated generation with their no fat, gluten-free, low calorie diets will have their teachable moment, as will those who demand a balanced diet at every meal. Calories first, nutritional nuances second. And sometimes there is no second, to wit:

Pan Am Post – Muchacho reported that in Venezuela, it is a “painful reality” that people “hunt cats, dogs and pigeons” to ease their hunger. The population’s desperation has begun to show, with looting and robberies for food increasing all the time. Six Venezuelan military officials were arrested for stealing goats to ease their hunger.

Activist Post – Many people expect an economic collapse to be shocking, instant, and dramatic but, really, it’s far more gradual than that. Many began to suspect the outlook for Venezuela was grim when prepping became illegal. Shortly thereafter, grocery stores instituted a fingerprint registry to purchase food and supplies. Families had to register and were allotted a certain amount of supplies to prevent “hoarding.”

Only a fool would believe they could prepare “just in time”. Remember how the ammo shortage started. First, prices began to rise as inventory fell. “It’s only a blip. Things will soon get back to normal, they always have.” Then there were empty shelves here ‘n there. No big deal, if one outlet didn’t have it, another one did. Until they didn’t. When the ugly truth was obvious to all, panic buying began and the bottom of the bucket fell out. The cause of the ammo scarcity doesn’t matter. What matters is foolishly depending on normalcy. It’s okay to expect normalcy, not okay to rely on it.

“Shocking, instant, and dramatic” can’t be discounted either. The list is long. Another New Madrid earthquake could take down bridges over the Mississippi—it’s surprising how few there are—and hundreds of others. Or maybe another Carrington event or a nuclear EMP by a rogue regime will take down the grid, perhaps for years. Not to be overlooked is war itself [see “World War III, The run up” below]. Or a sudden, catastrophic economic failure could freeze everything in place for the forseeable future, a repeat of the 1930s. Or it could be something we don’t even have a name for.

Solve food and the specifics matter much less. The prudent will stock a deep larder using home canning, dehydrating, vacuum dry packing, salting, smoking and a goodly supply of commercial long term storage foods. Regional events elsewhere suggest survival will be a more intense version of life itself, a marathon of hard work and routine, with occasional run-ins with dangerous people. As the well known and obvious truth has it, “there’s no long term without the short term”. Those who make it through the first year okay, and who use that year well, have the best shot at surviving the storm altogether.

Next item please.

There’s considerable overlap of preparationalism and survivalism. A pure survivalist is a nomadic, resourceful minimalist ‘living off the land’, most dramatically in hostile territory. There are good uses for this expertise, escape and evasion for one, but in the main they’re “cammies, camp ‘n carbine” people, old west mountain men as opposed to frontier settlers. They’re mostly adventurers of the Hugh Glass variety but some band together in modern day Freikorps, closer to partisans than survivalists. Best case, real survivalists add a bit of color and a viable alternative to what will otherwise be a dreary slog through unenviable times. Worst case, they’ll devolve into guerilla raiders.

At the other extreme are the “Mount Olympus” preppers, affluent groups with remote, upscale compounds outfitted to continue their present life style without the annoying inconveniences a civilizational collapse is bound to incur. They’re well staffed and elaborately equipped, often underground, with high-tech comms and power generation, huge stores of food, fuel and supplies, good medical facilities, their security entrusted to a cadre of ex-military and a “nine” in every nightstand. It’s essentially an all-in bet their capsule will outlast the unpleasantness. There’s no Plan B, it would mean settling for second best, so it ain’t happenin’.

In between are the prepper-survivalists who live in, or move to, unfashionably distant rural venues and live a robust, largely self-sufficient life. Some are children of hippies who’ve Learned Their Lesson, others live as “armed Amish” or as they imagine their great grandparents lived, except with solar power and antibiotics, still others have always lived this way, often with a run of destitution in their history that fuels a seriously prudent outlook and provides a ready store of cautionary tales. Common to them all is a “borderlands mentality”, meaning self reliance and cellular-level distrust of secular authority. It’s with these misfits the odds makers should place their bets.

Out of the running are urban people. They have no real chance. Cities are densely inhabited reservations supplied from the outside, run by committees of niche experts at the behest of clueless blowhards. Commerce consists largely of distributing, selling, stealing, replacing and disposing of stuff they neither built nor grew. The rest talk or peddle palliatives for a living. Networking is everyone’s second profession, few are employed on merit alone. What it pleases them to call “street smarts”—mental equipage for an alternative reality—is about the extent of their survival know-how.

The aware among them are convinced they’ll see the approaching calamity before everyone else and hie themselves to their uncle’s place on the lake while civilization collapses in their rear view mirror. No one will hassle them on the way because they’re good people. And they know a guy. They imagine it’ll be like camping. When they get to the village they’ll load up on food and supplies. After the authorities make everything okay again they’ll return home tanned, fit and refreshed, with lots of stories to tell. Their friends will marvel at their shrewd resourcefulness and seek their guidance in other matters. As said above, they have no real chance.

I don’t agree with everything Remus has to say, but it’s always worth thinking about.

Posted in personal, prepping, science kits | 82 Comments

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

09:03 – Yesterday morning, Barbara commented that the air conditioning had been running all night. We had the thermostat set to 75 and it was showing 78. There was also a little “Stage 2” icon, which I hadn’t seen before. A quick Internet search told me what that icon meant. I assumed that our air conditioning was just having a hard time keeping up with the extreme heat we’ve been having recently. But it just kept getting warmer and warmer in here as the day went on. When Barbara returned from Winston yesterday afternoon, she said she thought maybe we were low on Freon. So I called the HVAC folks who’d checked out our system right after we moved in here last December. They were, unsurprisingly, booked up yesterday and today. He said the soonest they could make it out here was Wednesday, so we set up an appointment.

Yesterday afternoon, we opened several windows for some cross ventilation, brought the oscillating fan in from the garage and set it up in the den, and turned on the ceiling fan in the master bedroom. Ordinarily, Barbara hates to have air blowing on her, but as warm as it was (and is) in the house, she made an exception. I closed the windows and drapes this morning to keep the cooler air in and the hotter air out. Our high today should be several degrees cooler than yesterday. By next week, our highs are to be in the 70’s (~25C), which is more usual for high summer in Sparta.

We’ll manage for another day or so until the AC is up and running again. As I said to Barbara last night, this is the way people used to live all the time. When Barbara was growing up, their house didn’t have air conditioning until she was in high school. I think I was in junior high when we had a serious heat wave in New Castle, PA. My dad came home one day with a huge window air conditioner, which we installed in the den. For the duration of the heat wave, we all slept downstairs. I take comfort in the fact that Sparta is experiencing extraordinary high temperatures right now. Our highs have been up in the low 90’s F (~ 33C), which almost never happens. (I blame it on global warming…) If this is the worst it gets, we could live with it even in a long-term power failure. Winter cold is the threat here; summer heat isn’t a real problem.

While she was down in Winston yesterday, Barbara picked up another 6-foot folding table. We’ll use that out in the garage to assemble small-parts bags, build science kits, and so on. We have a 5-foot folding table out there now, along with three other small folding tables. Those, we’ll fold up and store in the attic. The new table is identical to the existing one, but a foot longer. That gives us 11 feet of work surface, which is enough to bin bags four dozen at a time or build kits three dozen at a time.

I’m getting very tired of the MSM’s maniacal focus on the political conventions. Who cares? I mean, if there was a riot or someone set off a bomb, that’d be news. But the outcomes of both the RNC and the DNC were pretty much known in advance, so what’s the point to covering them in exhaustive detail? This stuff isn’t news: it’s features. I just did a quick scan of the CNN and FoxNews home pages yesterday. Both were about 5% actual news stories and 95% features or human interest. That stuff doesn’t belong on the front page. Hell, it doesn’t belong in the front section. One might almost think that the goal of US MSM is to distract people from real news. Oh, look. A squirrel! It’s a sad commentary on the state of US “journalism” that when I want some US news I go to the UK newspaper websites to get it. Geez.

Posted in personal, science kits | 56 Comments

Monday, 25 July 2016

09:05 – Barbara just left to head down to Winston to run errands. As usual, Colin deeply resents being left at home with me. He’s going to help me build a bunch of boxes for biology kits and burn the DVDs that go into them.

Email from Brittany. They had a food repackaging party over the weekend. They didn’t finish everything, but they got a lot done: they filled, sealed, and labeled about 100 of the LDS 1-gallon foil/Mylar bags with bulk staples, about 500 pounds total. Her husband hadn’t finished building the shelves in the basement, so they have stacks of filled bags all over the place for now.

Brittany said there’s a real learning curve involved. When they filled their first bag, for example, they quickly realized that they had no way to seal it because if they laid it on its side to seal it most of the food would spill out of the open end. They quickly solved that problem by building a stack of bricks high enough to lean the filled bags against while they folded the tops of the bags over a steel ruler and used an old clothes iron set on high to seal all but the last inch or so of the top, leaving space to stick an oxygen absorber in before sealing the final small gap.

It wasn’t until they’d filled several bags with beans that they realized that the filled bags were going to be kind of lumpy, so it might be better to label the bags before they filled them. So they ran enough half-page labels to label enough bags for the rest of the beans and used them to pre-label bean bags before filling them. They ended up with a partial bag’s worth of beans left over, which Brittany put in a labeled ziplock bag for immediate use.

They then opened a bag of oxygen absorbers, went back and squeezed as much of the air as possible out of the filled bean bags, dropped an oxygen absorber in each, and sealed the final small gap. They then squeezed each bag to make sure it was sealed completely, put the unused oxygen absorbers in a half-pint Mason jar, and set the sealed bags aside. When they looked at them several hours later, Brittany was surprised to see that the oxygen absorbers had already had a visible effect on the bags, which were now all shrunken in on themselves and lumpy. Thinking ahead, they’d sealed the bags at the very top edge. As Brittany says, by opening them carefully, they’ll be able to re-use the empty bags for more beans, albeit not quite as many in each succeeding pass as they got into the bags on the first pass.

After beans, they repeated the process to bag rice, oats, cornmeal, pasta, salt, and (finally) flour. All except the flour went well, because all of those other foods are reasonably granular. But, like most people who’ve bagged bulk staples, Brittany quickly came to hate repackaging flour. As a light, fluffy powder, flour tends to go everywhere but where you want it. Brittany’s kitchen ended up with a light dusting of flour on the counters, cabinet doors, floors, and every other surface. Her husband grabbed a new tack cloth from his workbench, which they used to remove flour dust from the mouths of the flour bags before they heat-sealed them.

They ended up with about 150 of the LDS foil/Mylar bags unused from the original case of 250, and several sacks of bulk staples that they hadn’t had time to transfer. They intend to buy more sacks of bulk staples this week, and fill foil/Mylar bags again this coming weekend.

Posted in Barbara, Brittany, personal, prepping | 84 Comments

Sunday, 24 July 2016

10:13 – I’ve commented before about how LTS food is going mainstream. For the last three years or so, Costco, Walmart, and Sam’s Club have all featured it on their websites and in their advertising circulars. Last week, the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article on the increasing popularity and widespread appeal of “bunker food”.

Amazon is late to the party, but they’ve now jumped in with both feet. For a couple years, they’ve been selling some LTS food, mostly Mountain House freeze-dried, and mostly at very high prices. I check their site periodically, because I’d rather order Augason Farms stuff from Amazon than from Walmart. Until recently, they carried only a few AF products and often priced them at or above retail. The other night, I checked again and found that Amazon now offers the full range of AF products, and at prices that are sometimes competitive with WalMart, although usually moderately to significantly higher. Some of them, Amazon actually stocks, but a lot of them are from third-party vendors fulfilled by Amazon.

For example, Amazon now offers a can of AF butter powder for $19.56, same price as Walmart, and a can of whole egg powder for $31.51, only four cents higher than Walmart’s $31.47. Amazon charges $18.32 per can for AF Cheese Blend Powder, versus only $17.41 on Walmart. Some things are a lot more expensive on Amazon, such as bell peppers at $18.44 per can versus only $12.31 on Walmart, or bacon TVP at $11.99 versus only $9.32 on Walmart. I compared a couple of dozen products, and found that Amazon averaged about 11% higher than Walmart. Amazon has some work to do if they want to compete with Walmart, but it’s nice to see them at least getting into the competition.

Posted in prepping | 53 Comments

Saturday, 23 July 2016

09:13 – We closed on the house in Winston yesterday, so we’re back to owning only one home. The next major project is to get our gravel driveway paved. I’ll call to get quotes Monday.

Email from Brittany, whose prepping is proceeding apace. Her foil-Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers have arrived, and they have a repackaging party scheduled for this weekend. They also picked up another two 50-pound bags of sugar, four 50-pound bags of flour, four 25-pound bags of beans, four 25-pound bags of white rice, about 50 pounds of pasta, 50 pounds of oatmeal, and 25 pounds of cornmeal, so with what they already had there’s a lot of repackaging to be done. Brittany happily notes that they now have enough to feed the four of them for six months, mostly in bulk staples, but with a reasonable amount of canned meats, sauces, and other foods as well. They also have a large order of Augason Farms stuff in #10 cans on the way from Walmart. And her husband is busy building shelves in the basement to store all this stuff once it’s repackaged. Brittany says that just looking at the piles of stuff is enough to make her feel much more secure, which is a common reaction of new preppers who’ve started to accumulate reasonable amounts of supplies.

We built another 28 chemistry kits yesterday, which takes our finished goods inventory on those to about four dozen. We’ll get started today on another batch of biology kits. Once we get those complete, it’ll be lather, rinse, and repeat though August and into September. In prior years, there’ve been weeks when I was so busy shipping kits that I didn’t have time to build more. I think our all-time record was 34 kits in one day. With Barbara available full-time this year, keeping up shouldn’t be a problem.

09:25 – Science is never “settled”, as any real scientist understands. How a Guy From a Montana Trailer Park Overturned 150 Years of Biology

Posted in Brittany, personal, science, science kits | 72 Comments

Friday, 22 July 2016

10:05 – I happened across this article yesterday, and decided to post this morning about why we don’t use a pressure canner. (There’s one sitting in a kitchen cabinet, but I use it only as an autoclave for biology stuff, not to preserve food.)

FTA: “…for four people, her suggestions would require 800-1200 jars…” Assuming you buy new jars in bulk, and depending on capacity and mouth size, a thousand canning jars with lids and bands might cost $700 or so, or $0.70 each. That’s a lot of money for empty jars. The canning process itself is also costly, both in terms of fuel and time. And that’s not even counting the financial and time costs of planting a vegetable garden. Nor is home canning sustainable in the long run if lids are no longer available. Most preppers would want to buy enough spare lids to re-use those jars at least five times. That’s 5,000 spare lids. If you buy in bulk, lids will cost about $0.20 each. If you buy in really large bulk, you might get that down to $0.15 each. (You could buy Tatler or other reusable lids, but I don’t trust them. They’re quite expensive, there are too many failures with reusable lids, and even they can’t be reused indefinitely.) So, 5,000 spare single-use lids at $0.15 each is another $750 on top of the $700 you spent on the jars originally. You can buy a lot of commercially-canned vegetables for that amount of money. And, to top it off, most of what you’d be canning would be vegetables, which are not essential to the human diet and contain very little actual nutrition for the amount of effort and storage space required.

It would be far better to buy commercially-canned vegetables for your long-term storage needs. They’re cheap even in standard-size cans, and cheaper still in #10 cans. A standard size can of vegetables at Costco or Sam’s Club might cost $0.70 (less than the cost of a canning jar), and a #10 can (equivalent to six or seven standard cans) might cost $3.50. Canned vegetables remain good for many years, or even decades. Instead of spending that $1,500 on canning jars and hundreds of hours growing vegetables and canning them, you could buy more than 400 #10 cans of vegetables, which would contain considerably more food than you’d fit in those 1,000 canning jars.

But of course, those #10 cans will eventually all be used. What then? Well, I hope you’ll be keeping a garden all along and eating fresh vegetables while they’re available from your garden. With proper planning and management, depending on your climate, you should be able to have a garden that produces an ongoing supply of vegetables for at least five or six months a year. The rest of the time, you eat your canned vegetables. But by eating the canned stuff only when fresh isn’t available, you also extend your supply of canned by a factor of two. And I hope that by the time you run out of canned vegetables you’ll have built a solar dehydrator to use to preserve vegetables from times of plenty to use when food is hard to come by.

You may have noticed that I focus a great deal of attention on food. I remember discussing water and food storage with a prepper friend back in the 70’s. He was famous for his malapropisms and twisted logic, often coming up with statements that were almost but not quite right. In this case he said, “Water is easy to come by but food doesn’t grow on trees.” I think I sprayed my coffee out through my nose, but he had a point. Water *is* easy to come by, at least for most of us. Food, on the other hand, really doesn’t grow on trees.

So that’s why I don’t spend time and money on canning food. If it ever comes to it, I’d dehydrate what I could. The rest of it, mostly meats, I’d salt down or pickle. I just hope it never comes to that.

Posted in prepping | 87 Comments

Thursday, 21 July 2016

09:22 – Barbara just left for Mt. Airy, where she’s meeting her friend Bonnie to walk around the arts/crafts places and have lunch. She should be back by dinner time, but Colin isn’t happy about her leaving him here.

We got a new batch of chemical bags made up for chemistry kits yesterday. Today, I’m building boxes for those chemistry kits, which’ll take our finished goods inventory on those up to about four dozen. Once we finish those, we’ll get to work on making up chemical bags for biology kits and then making those kits up, which’ll again take us to about four dozen in stock. That’ll total about 12 dozen total of all types of kits in stock, which should suffice to get us well into August, based on prior years. But of course we’ll keep building more kits, because after August comes September, which is always another big month.

Email from Jen. Rather than stocking up on millions of tampons for herself and Claire, she decided to give the Diva Cup a try. There are two models of the Diva Cup. Model 1 is for women who are under 30 years old AND have not had a child via vaginal delivery or C-section. Model 2 is for women who are over 30 OR have had a child. So she ordered a Model 2 for herself and a second one for Claire. She pointed out that Angela Paskett (who’s also the author of an excellent food-storage book) has a YouTube video about it that’s worth watching for women who are considering this option.

She and Claire had pretty much the same reaction to the Diva Cup. The first month, they hated it. It was gross and completely different from using disposable tampons. Over the following months, they both decided it wasn’t so bad, and after five or six months they’ve both decided they actually prefer it to tampons. So they ordered spares for each of them and are keeping their remaining stock of tampons on the shelf. Jen recommends it in the appropriate sizes for any household with a girl or woman of menstrual age or one who will soon be of menstrual age.

It’s a sad commentary on the current state of affairs, but I’m kind of surprised that no one has assassinated Donald Trump yet. I’m not sure if there’s a bigger threat from the Clinton camp, whose enemies are known for disappearing or dying in strange ways, or the GOPe/RNC, who hate Trump about as much as the Democrats do. Throw in other groups like BLM and other SJWs and progs, muslim terrorists, Mexican cartels, and just about everyone other than normal people is out to get Trump. I’m in no way a Trump supporter–I consider him nearly as bad as Clinton–but I sure don’t wish him harm. But a lot of people do. If I were he, I’d supplement my SS protection detail with private security that I’d hired and paid for myself. If someone does kill Trump, there’ll be joyous celebrations among the RINOs and neocons, who will then be able to run one of their own against Clinton.

The next four months are likely to be interesting times, in the Chinese proverb sense.

Posted in Barbara, Jen, personal, politics, prepping, science kits | 65 Comments

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

09:07 – Long-time reader Mikeric sent me email with a question about #10 cans: “I am curious about how you open them. I have spotty luck with can openers.”

Good question, and one that many preppers never think about because they don’t realize it can be an issue. The problem with #10 cans is two-fold: first, they’re tall enough to make it difficult or impossible to use a standard counter-top can opener, electric or manual. Second, the lid on #10 cans may be recessed deeply enough from the rim that some can openers may just spin the can around without the cutter blade coming into contact with the lid itself.

For emergency use, the best bet is military P-51 and/or P-38 can openers. The P-51’s and the slightly smaller P-38’s are cheap, fast, and effective (once you figure out how to use them). If you depend on canned goods in your food storage, you’ll want to have a bunch of them scattered around so you’re never lacking a can opener. As a matter of fact, I just added a 20-pack (ten of each, P-51 and P-38) to my Amazon cart. That’s 20 US-made, military-issue, Shelby can openers for about $9. You’ll want at least one in each of your emergency kits, plus several more scattered around your kitchen and food storage areas.

For daily use, you’ll want a normal can opener or openers. We threw out our electric can opener years ago. It worked only with normal size cans, didn’t work when the power was down, and was difficult to keep clean. Our main can opener now is an Oxo safety can opener that Barbara got at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

We also have a couple of standard manual can openers, of the sort that Swing-A-Way pioneered in the late 1930’s. Swing-A-Way can openers made prior to about 10 or 15 years ago are just about bullet-proof and can open any standard or institutional size can. They’re still sold for $5 or $6 apiece, but unfortunately they’re now made in China and are reportedly now typical shoddy Chinese junk. There’s a US-made version sold under the name EZ-Duz-It, which reviews say is as good as the original Swing-A-Way openers, but I haven’t seen one of those.

Finally, if you find yourself without any tools at all, you can open a can by pressing it against any concrete surface and turning the can until you’ve ground down the rim.

More science kit stuff today, as usual.

Posted in prepping, science kits | 53 Comments

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

09:27 – We’re working on science kits all week. We have about six dozen finished kits of all types in inventory, which’ll hold us while we build more. We’ll do a couple dozen of each type of kit, rotating through the different types. I’d rather do three or four dozen of each type at a time, but my OMGWO inventory keeping means we might suddenly run out of some component that’s shared among kits. Doing only a couple dozen of each type at a time gives us some breathing space to reorder if we do run out of something. Fortunately, Barbara has made great strides in organizing component inventories, so running out unexpectedly is much less a problem than it used to be when it was just me keeping track.

When Lori picked up our mail yesterday, she commented on how hot it was and I mentioned that there was a heat dome over most of the US for the next several days. She said she needed to get some hay down for her cattle. I assumed she meant hay for them to eat now, which I didn’t understand. This morning, I asked her, and she clarified. She meant she needed to mow some hay and get it down and drying during the warm weather. She said she’d love to “pickle” the hay by putting it in large plastic bags and letting it ferment. I asked if that wasn’t the same as silage, and she said it was. Turning it into silage increases the amount of protein and other nutrients. But she said she’d dry it rather than pickling it, because that way she could feed it to her cattle or her horses. Apparently, horses won’t or can’t eat silage. Add that to the large list of things I never knew.

I also asked Lori how she ended up owning a farm in Sparta, since she’d told me earlier that she’d grown up in the suburbs in Maryland. She did, but she also spent a lot of time summers while she was growing up at her grandfather’s farm here in Sparta. When he died, she inherited the farm, so she moved to Sparta and took over running the farm in addition to her job as a USPS carrier. I like Lori a lot. In addition to working two full time jobs as a farmer and a USPS carrier, she’s always taking different courses to learn new stuff. I wasn’t surprised when she told me that she was taking welding classes. I can see how welding would be a useful skill for a farmer. But she did surprise me when she said she was spending her vacation learning to fly an airplane.

Barbara is out weeding the garden right now. She’s started harvesting zucchini, which is flourishing. We planted only six zucchinis, one of which isn’t doing well, but the remaining five are likely to produce more zucchini than we’ll know what to do with. The other stuff we planted isn’t ready to harvest yet, but the baby plants seem to be doing well. My guess is that we’ll have more than enough tomatoes, onions, bush beans, broccoli, peppers, peas, and carrots to keep us in fresh vegetables through the autumn, with lots left to give away and plenty to save for seed. All that from roughly 0.007 acre of cultivated ground. We also have a lot of potted herbs. The basil is flourishing, but the others are gradually coming up. Most herbs are very slow to germinate and grow, but once they’re established they’re persistent.

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