Wednesday, 23 August 2017

09:16 – It was 67.9F (20C) when I took Colin out at 0645, partly cloudy.

Barbara is leaving mid-afternoon to head down to Winston. She’ll have dinner with Frances and Al, stay with them tonight, and then head back tomorrow morning, making a Costco run on her way out of town. It’s WW&P for Colin and me.

Our LTS food inventory is at steady-state now, so we don’t need much. I did ask Barbara to pick me up a case of six #10 cans of coffee, a two-pack of mayonnaise, and another case of Costco bottled water in gallons.

Barbara just headed for the gym. When she returns, she’ll finish packing up the two dozen chemistry kits we assembled yesterday, and then label bottles for stuff we’re running out of. While she’s gone, I’ll make up solutions for those.

Email from Kathy, whom I hadn’t heard from in a month or so. All of the stuff they had on order has arrived, been checked in, and shelved. The propane tank and gas cooktop has been installed. She’s done her first pressure-canning run, canning up ten pounds of sausage that she bought on sale. Now she’s carefully watching the jars, halfway expecting the lids to pop or something.

Mike has proposed a Cunning Plan, which Kathy thinks is just bizzare. He points out that they don’t have a cold cellar, and he’d like to build one in the basement by enclosing a small area, insulating it heavily, and building a refrigerator into the wall, pointed into the enclosed area. Kind of like a 21st-century version of an old ice-house.

She asked my opinion. I told her that I’m not a refrigeration engineer, but it just might work. The refrigerator’s compressor would probably have to run for a couple of days to get the insulated area cooled down and there might be some problems with temperature differentials within the space, but keeping a well-insulated larger volume cool isn’t much different from keeping the interior of the refrigerator cool.

Posted in Kathy, long-term food storage, personal, prepping, science kits | 31 Comments

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

09:27 – It was 66.6F (18C) when I took Colin out at 0635, partly cloudy.

As usual this time of year, we’re covered up building and shipping science kits. I just finished processing five orders that came in overnight, and Barbara is standing here building another two dozen boxes for more chemistry kits.

Someone asked if anyone would post images of their long-term storage. This first one is part of our LTS food in the unfinished area of the basement. It includes stuff like 9 gallons of pancake syrup, 20+ gallons of oils and fats, gallon jugs of molasses, liquid smoke, different types of vinegar, several gallons each of prepared ketchup and mustard (for making barbecue sauce), about 60 28-ounce cans of Keystone meats, 32 12-ounce cans of Spam, and another 50 or so cans of various meats.

Here’s the refrigerator in the unfinished area, with another 100+ cans of meat, a few #10 cans of cheese and butter powder, and the remaining space filled with jars of Alfredo sauce.

The freezer is packed with #10 cans of Augason egg powder, Nido powdered whole milk, and various OTC and agricultural drugs.

The next image is a 5×2-foot steel shelving rack, which contains a lot of repackaged dry bulk foods, as well as sauces, evaporated milk, canned vegetables, and other miscellany. Just as an indication of how much is here, that small area of green bottles in the lower left corner contains 80 pounds of pinto beans, the section of bright yellow bottles on the shelf above it is 60 pounds of cornmeal, and the red-top Coke bottles on the lower two shelves contain 250 pounds of repackaged macaroni. The reason for the scattered placement of the cases of canned vegetables is that I’m using them as “bookends” to prevent the 2- and 3-liter bottles from rolling.

The image below is the closet in our LTS food room, which is under the stairs. There’s some miscellaneous computer equipment stored in there for now, but the bulk of the space is occupied by about 40 cases (240 cans) of assorted #10 cans from the LDS Home Storage Center and Augason Farms, along with some other miscellaneous #10 cans of stuff from Costco and Sam’s Club.

These pictures don’t show all of our LTS food stores, but it gives you some idea.

Posted in long-term food storage, personal, prepping, science kits | 70 Comments

Monday, 21 August 2017

08:51 – Eclipse Day. We’re staying indoors this afternoon to hide from the eclipse. We wouldn’t want to go blind or get an eclipse burn or something. We’ll probably burn offerings to Apollo, Ra, and the FSM.

I’ve heard from several readers who live in rural areas that are in the path of totality. The common thread is that every motel room and rental cabin in the area is booked, gas stations are out of gas, supermarkets and convenience stores are out of everything, and so on. That’s what happens when the population of an area doubles or triples overnight. We haven’t seen any influx that I’m aware of, but we’re 150 miles or so outside the path of totality.

It was 64.5F (18C) when I took Colin out at 0635, partly cloudy. Colin appears to have recovered from his womiting problem. Barbara is off to the gym this morning. We have more science kit stuff to do when she returns.

We’re both pretty happy with the LTS food storage areas downstairs. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s a lot better than it was. At some point, we’ll install bracket shelving on one wall that’s now freed up in the food room itself, along with more shelving in the guest bedroom closet, but otherwise we’re good to go.

Our TV viewing is shifting increasingly to British Commonwealth series, and that’s saying something. Our TV viewing has always had that in the majority, but now it’s nearly exclusive. Right now, for example, we’ve just finished watching all four available seasons of the Australian series, A Place to Call Home, are in series seven of the British Dalziel & Pascoe, about three-quarters of the way through the British series, The Village, most of the way through series three of the British series, Grantchester (with the delightful Morven Christie, who looks like Helen Baxendale‘s daughter), about 40% of the way through the New Zealand series, Brokenwood Mysteries, and about halfway through the British series, Countryfile Diaries (with the delightful Keeley Donovan). In the on-deck circle, we have Harlots.

Posted in long-term food storage, personal, prepping, science kits | 94 Comments

Sunday, 20 August 2017

09:04 – It was 61.6F (16.5C) when I took Colin out at 0645, partly cloudy. Colin vomited a couple more times yesterday, but he’s behaving normally otherwise and doesn’t appear to be in any distress. He has his usual amount of energy, which is to say a lot, and constantly wants to play, so I don’t think anything is really wrong with him. As James Herriot used to say, if he couldn’t catch his patients, he knew there was nothing very wrong with them.

Barbara is cleaning house this morning, after which we’ll go back to work on building science kits and getting the downstairs LTS food room cleaned up and organized. We got a lot done on that yesterday. Barbara proclaimed that she was pleased. I’m trying to get similar stuff shelved together. All the oils and fats in one place, all the meats together, all the pasta together, etc.

I was also pleased, because the counts confirmed that we’re in pretty good shape on everything. We have, for example, roughly 340 cans of meat of various sizes and types, totaling about 360 pounds. That’s about 3.6 ounces of meat per day for the 4.5 of us for a year, and doesn’t count what’s in the vertical freezer upstairs. In a long-term power-out emergency, we could of course pressure-can that as well.

We’re also in good shape on oils/fats. Again not counting butter and other oils in the big freezer upstairs, we have about 25 gallons of assorted oils/fats shelved downstairs. Even not counting the fats in canned meats, that’s sufficient lipids for the 4.5 of us for at least a year. We’re in similarly good shape on other categories like rice/flour/pasta, herbs/spices, cooking/baking essentials, canned powdered eggs/butter/cheese, etc. The only thing we’re short on at this point is vegetables.

The only exception I’m making to keeping like with like is our stock of #10 cans of LTS food from the LDS Home Storage Center and miscellaneous stuff from Augason Farms. There are roughly 240 cans (40 cases) of that, kept together in or near the LTS food room closet.

And I uncovered a science experiment at the back of the storage shelves. It’s a box of UHT half-and-half creamer packages that has a best-by date four years ago. When Barbara picked it up, she said, “EWWWW!” and carried it over to the trash can to discard. I rescued it and took it upstairs, because I intend to try it. If it sniff-tests okay, I’ll taste it, but my guess is that it’ll fail the sniff test.

Posted in long-term food storage, personal, prepping | 63 Comments

Saturday, 19 August 2017

09:04 – It was 63.4F (17.5C) when I took Colin out at 0620, partly cloudy. Barbara is working in the garden this morning.

Later today and tomorrow, we’ll be getting the downstairs LTS food room and the lab/work area organized and inventoried. I really need to figure out what we have and where it is. I swear I could lose a Toyota in the LTS food room.

Colin wasn’t feeling well yesterday. He was–like Clancy on All Creatures, Great and Small–“womiting”. After dinner, I was sitting on the sofa when he climbed on top of me and womited. Yuck. He seems to be feeling better this morning.

Posted in personal | 42 Comments

Friday, 18 August 2017

08:56 – It was 69.9F (21C) when I took Colin out at 0630, mostly cloudy and muggy. Barbara is heading for the gym and supermarket this morning, after which she’ll be working in the garden and perhaps doing some work on science kits.

I asked Barbara to pick me up a couple of bags of frozen French fries because I want to do some dehydration experiments on them. She’s going to get me a bag of the thicker, crinkle-cut fries and another of the thin, shoestring fries so that I can compare the dehydration properties of each. My guess is that the shoestring fries will dehydrate better, simply because they have a larger surface area to volume ratio, but we’ll see. I will, of course, weigh the specimens before dehydrating them and then after different drying periods to calculate the percentage moisture and moisture loss of each.

We were just discussing this morning that we’re both very glad that Sparta is outside the path of totality for the eclipse. It’s going to be a real mess in that path across rural and small-town America. These areas simply aren’t capable of dealing with a massive influx of people. Gas stations will run out of fuel, supermarkets and restaurants will run out of food, Roach Motels will be charging $1,000 per night, emergency and medical services will be swamped, and so on. Even the roads aren’t designed to support the volume they may see. Dealing with even minor breakdowns and flat tires will be frustrating and time-consuming. EMS in many areas will be slow to respond because they’ll be in such high demand. Rural emergency rooms will be packed. Tempers will fray. Fist fights and worse will be frequent. We’re well out of it.

I write often about long-term food storage, but I got an interesting email yesterday that makes it clear I need to mention short-term food storage. This woman is in her late 30’s and is preparing only for herself and her daughter, age 15. She has several months’ worth of LTS food. Everything except meats, which presents a problem for her.

They’d like to buy a supply of Keystone Meats 28-ounce cans and put them on the shelf. They’ve already ordered small numbers of the various Keystone Meats, and like all of them. The problem is, she’s looking at the possibility of a long-term emergency where refrigeration is not available, and a 28-ounce can is too much for the two of them to eat at one sitting.

So their LTS pantry currently has maybe a 3-month supply of 12.5-ounce cans of Costco chicken, and not much other meat. Freeze-dried meats are out of the question cost-wise. Neither of them particularly likes canned tuna or salmon, and both of them despise Spam. They both like chicken, but not every day. She’d like to store a lot more variety in her canned meats. So what are the alternatives?

First, she can actively search out smaller cans of different meats. Keystone does sell all of their meats in smaller (14.5-ounce) cans, but the cost per ounce is much higher, and those smaller cans can be difficult to find. Costco used to carry 12-ounce cans of Harvest Creek Pulled Pork, but no longer does so. (We just moved the last cans of that pulled pork from the deep pantry up to the kitchen. They have a best-by date of 6/27/17.) Costco does offer 12-ounce cans of roast beast for about $3.50 per can. It’s not Barbara’s favorite, but she will eat it. She’s not a big beef eater anyway. I think it’s pretty good, about equivalent to Keystone beef chunks. There are also alternatives like DAK canned hams that might be worth taste-testing.

Second, she can pressure-can meats herself, as several of the Prepper Girls do. After the upfront cost of a decent pressure canner and related supplies, it’ll cost her about $0.75 to put up a one-pint (one pound) jar of whatever meats she wants to store. And, of course, the cost of the meat itself, but she can buy that in bulk when it’s on sale. It’s a lot of time, work, and fuel, but depending on what meats she decides to pressure-can, it’ll probably be about break-even cost-wise compared to buying commercially-canned meats. And it’s perfectly safe if she follows USDA recommendations.

I’ll call home pressure-canning MTS, medium-term storage, if only because some vendors of canning jars and lids have made some disturbing statements about how long their products will maintain a safe seal. At one point, some vendors were saying only one year, but I believe they’ve upped that to 18 months now. Still, in the past we all assumed that pressure-canned foods would remain safe for many year or even decades, so these new recommendations are disturbing. I’m not sure what’s changed to cause the dramatic reduction in rated shelf life. Perhaps the shift away from BPA?

Third, just because you don’t have refrigeration doesn’t mean you can’t preserve meats from day to day. For thousands of years, people have used pottage to do just that, particularly during the winter months. A pot of a meat dish kept on low heat remains good for a long, long time. Back the middle ages, people kept pottage going for literally months on end, adding things to the pot every day–from a scoop of grain or beans to some chunks of rabbit or squirrel or quail or whatever meat they could get–and eating their meals from it.

We could do exactly that here if it ever became necessary. Our propane supply is large enough to keep the smallest burner on our cooktop running 24/7 on low for many years. If we were heating with our wood stove in a long-term emergency, we could also use that. Or, in the winter, of course, we’d have outdoors refrigeration.

But summer or winter, there’s an easier solution based on modern technology: the vacuum bottle. We keep two or three of these wide-mouth vacuum bottles on hand, and they’re capable of keep hot foods hot overnight. So, for example, we might make up a pot of beef with barley soup or beef stew or whatever. After the meal, we’d transfer the leftovers, still hot, into one or more of these Thermos bottles, where they’d still be perfectly safe to eat 24 hours later. Or we could simply transfer the hot Dutch oven to one of our large coolers, which would keep the food hot enough to prevent microorganisms from growing in it.

She also ended her message by commenting on a question I’ve raised more than once: why do people listen to me? Her answer was, “Because you obviously know what you’re talking about. You don’t pretend to know about things you don’t know, you admit it when you’re wrong and you’re not trying to sell me anything. This is the only prepping web site I’ve seen like that.”

While I appreciate the sentiment, I’m still in the same boat as everyone else: I don’t know what I don’t know. And even more worrying is the things I think I know that I turn out to be wrong about. Still, I just realized that as of this year I’ve been a prepper for 55 years, ever since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, so I’ve had time to figure a lot of stuff out by actual experience.

Posted in long-term food storage, personal, prepping | 147 Comments

Thursday, 17 August 2017

08:57 – It was 65.3F (18.5C) when I took Colin out at 0650, clear and sunny.

While Barbara was down in Winston yesterday, I spent some time working downstairs in the food storage areas. I found the four #10 cans of Augason Powdered Whole Eggs I’d ordered a couple of months ago, and moved them into the freezer, where they joined seven other cans of eggs. That’s roughly equivalent to 65 dozen fresh eggs. Not that we’ll be eating scrambled eggs or anything, but over the course of a year that gives us a couple eggs a day for making up pancakes or whatever.

The remainder of the freezer space is filled with vitamins and other mostly OTC drugs, which leaves the refrigerator. I’m currently moving a couple hundred 28-ounce cans of Keystone Meats and 12.5-ounce cans of Costco chicken into the refrigerator, which’ll extend their real-world shelf lives by a factor of at least four. I’d like to get us eventually up to one can of meat per day for a year. That won’t all fit in the refrigerator, obviously, but the more we can fit in there, the better. Eventually, I want to start pressure-canning meats, like the sausage Barbara gets at Costco. I may even try pressure-canning bacon.

Any space left in the refrigerator for now will be filled with #10 cans of Augason powdered cheese and butter, 15-ounce jars of Bertolli Alfredo sauce, and perhaps a few bottles of olive oil. When we’re finished, that refrigerator/freezer will be jam-packed with relatively high-value food.

I’ll keep the oldest stuff on the shelves at room temperature, where we’ll use it first. Room temperature downstairs, particularly in the unfinished area, is noticeably cooler than upstairs. In cold weather, it gets positively chilly down there.

I’m moving most oils/fats, syrups, vinegar, etc. to the upper, less accessible shelves in the unfinished area. Currently, there are seven or eight gallons of pancake syrup, a couple gallons of white vinegar, and about five gallons of vegetable/olive oil on the top shelf. They’ll soon be joined by a dozen 3-pound cans of shortening, a 3-gallon jug of peanut oil, several more gallons of vegetable/olive oil, and a gallon or two of wine vinegar.

Speaking of oils/fats/lipids reminds me of something I’ve meant to mention for a while. The LDS Church LTS recommendation is to store one quart/liter of oils per person per month, or about 2 pounds’ worth. Keep in mind that the current LDS iron-ration recommendations are for a minimal diet to sustain life, so you should consider them an absolute minimum.

The LDS recommendations are particularly light on oils/fats. Overall, the recommended amounts provide about 2,200 calories/day. Carbohydrates and proteins both average about 1,700 calories/pound, give or take. Oils average about 4,000 calories per pound. That means that the LDS recommendations provide a diet in which only about 12% of the calories come from fats. That’s much, much lower than a typical American diet, which yields somewhere in the 25% to 35% range of calories from fats. A diet that’s too low in lipids can have undesirable gastrointestinal and other effects, and should be avoided.

So instead of storing only one quart/liter per person-month, my goal is to store about twice that much, and I recommend that others do the same. Call it two quarts/liters or 4 pounds per person-month. That’s roughly six gallons or 48 pounds per person-year, or 27 gallons/216 pounds for the 4.5 of us.

You can store the bulk of your oils/fats supply as the obvious items: vegetable/olive oil and shortening. But other fatty items like butter, ghee, lard, peanut butter, mayonnaise, and so on also count towards the total.

Posted in long-term food storage, personal, prepping | 59 Comments

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

08:37 – It was 65.3F (18.5C) when I took Colin out at 0650, clear and sunny.

Barbara is heading for the gym this morning and then making a quick run down to Winston to have lunch with her friend Bonnie and then making a stop at Home Depot to pick up another platform ladder for downstairs and a gallon of VM&P naphtha for me. She’ll be back late this afternoon. Tomorrow and through the weekend, we’ll be doing kit stuff.

The recent events in Charlottesville remind me of a similar incident that occurred back in November, 1979. My parents had moved to Winston-Salem a couple of years previously, and I was visiting them when the incident occurred. It was the shootout in Greensboro between the KKK/Nazis and the Communists. I remember thinking at the time that it couldn’t have happened to more deserving people, and that it was a shame they hadn’t all shot each other.

Although one wouldn’t know it from reading the news reports, it seems that in Charlottesville the KKK/Nazis did everything by the book. They applied for a permit, which was duly granted, and then began a peaceful protest. Then the radical racist black vice-mayor withdrew the permit and ordered the white protesters out of town. They dispersed as ordered, individually and in small groups, and were set upon by roving bands of BLM/Antifa protesters, who had not even applied for a permit. Apparently, the young man who drove the car into a crowd of commie protesters had already been assaulted and battered more than once by groups of BLM/Antifa terrorists.

So it appears to me that the only way the KKK/Neo-Nazi group contributed to the violence was by being there. The actual violence was instigated and committed by the BLM/Antifa side, with the active support of the city government and the passive support of law enforcement, who stood by and did nothing to stop it. In other words, that woman’s death was entirely attributable to actions taken by the left, supported by city government and law enforcement.

Posted in news, personal, politics | 82 Comments

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

08:44 – It was 68.0F (20C) when I took Colin out at 0650, overcast and calm. We had another 0.6″ of rain overnight, which takes us to about 4.4″ (11 cm) over the last three days. Things are damp. More work on science kits this morning. Barbara is volunteering at the Friends bookstore this afternoon. She’s also making a quick run down to Winston tomorrow, leaving in the morning and returning in the afternoon. She’ll make a Home Depot run while she’s down there to pick up a few items, including another platform ladder to use downstairs and a gallon of VM&P naphtha, which is excellent fuel for Zippo lighters.

Amongst other things, we got 50 pounds each of sugar and rice repackaged yesterday. We repackaged the sugar into 14 of those 1.75-liter Tropicana orange juice bottles, at just a fraction over 3.5 pounds per bottle. The rice went into a dozen 2-liter soft drink bottles, at 4 pounds per bottle. The little bit remaining in the large bag went into our kitchen storage. We could have repackaged the sugar in 2-liter soft drink bottles. Like rice, sugar is free flowing, so the smaller mouth of the bottle isn’t a problem. But the 2-liter bottles don’t fit well on our kitchen shelves, which is where we keep at least 50 pounds of sugar at all times.

We still have a 50-pound bag of white flour to repackage, which is a pain in the ass because it’s so fluffy. That’ll go into 1-gallon Costco water bottles, at about 7 pounds per bottle.

Barbara was texting back and forth with her friend JoAnne yesterday. They’ve decided to get a Border Collie puppy. Barbara warned her that adopting a BC puppy is kind of like adopting a Tasmanian Devil, so JoAnne is aware of what they’ll be taking on.

We finished The Hollow Crown last night. It was terrible. The production values were excellent, and it had good acting. It was just so politically correct that I consider it unwatchable.

The PC rot in video first became really noticeable 20 years ago or so, and has really accelerated in the last ten. So we’re shifting our TV viewing to older stuff. There are hundreds of series to pick from. Many of those we first watched 25 years ago or more, so they’re now effectively new to us. Many others we never got around to watching back then, so they’re completely new to us. With very few exceptions, anything made in the last 10 or 15 years simply isn’t worth watching. If the price of watching old stuff is that it’s in 4:3 SD instead of 16:9 HD, we don’t care. Lipstick on a pig still leaves it a pig.

Posted in long-term food storage, personal, prepping | 45 Comments

Monday, 14 August 2017

08:46 – It was 65.4F (18.5C) when I took Colin out at 0645, foggy and calm. We had another 0.33″ of rain overnight, which takes us to about 3.8″ (9.5 cm) over the last couple of days. This area averages about 4.5″ of rain per month, pretty evenly distributed by the week, which has been our experience since we’ve lived here. Shortage of water is not an issue.

We got enough regulated and unregulated chemical bags built yesterday to make another 30 biology kits, which we’ll work on today. After that, it’s back to building chemistry kits. Rinse and repeat.

Barbara walked up to the house next door yesterday. Kim and her husband, the new owners, were up there checking out progress. I’d thought that their niece, Grace, would move in right after they closed on the house. It turns out she’s living with them for the time being. The day of the closing, they’d mentioned making some improvements to the house like adding a deck, but we assumed they’d do that while Grace was living there. Turns out they’re gutting the place and doing a complete rebuild, to the extent of ripping out interior walls and creating a different floor plan. They told Barbara it should be finished in eight weeks, after which Grace will move in.

We’ve about finished up The Hollow Crown, a painfully politically-correct BBC adaptation of Shakespeare. I’ve learned many Amazing True Facts along the way. For example, I always assumed that the Duke of York who died at Agincourt was just a typical English white guy. Not so. He was black, as was Margaret of Anjou. Margaret, who was actually a 15 year old white girl at the time of her marriage, is portrayed by a 47 year old black actress, supposedly because she was the best actress for the role. Seriously? They couldn’t find a 15 year old white actress for the part? Who would have thought it? I’m surprised they didn’t make Henry V a black, Jewish woman.

And the same is true of Grantchester, a village mystery series set in 1954 rural Britain. There are diversities all over the place. Apparently, no one pointed out that in 1954 rural Britain, there weren’t any diversities wandering around the villages. It’s extremely jarring.

Speaking of cheap preps, as we were yesterday, you might want to pick up the following items next time you’re at Sam’s, Costco, or Walmart:

Magnesium sulfate, USP (Epsom Salts) – Last time I bought this stuff, I paid about $10 for two 7-pound retort bags, but you can get it in smaller containers for a couple bucks. It’s an excellent saline laxative. A tablespoon dissolved in a glass of water is normally effective within a few hours.

Isopropanol (isopropyl alcohol) – I buy the 91% v/v variety at Sam’s Club. It’s about $4 for a pair of one-quart bottles, which you can use as cheap but effective hand sanitizer. The 91% stuff is actually less effective at killing microorganisms than a 68% to 75% solution, so dilute the 91% stuff with tap water: add about a cup of water to a quart of the 91% stuff. At less than $8/gallon, this compares favorably in effectiveness to bulk Purell at about $36/gallon. You can widen its spectrum and make it an even more effective germ killer by adding a teaspoon of Lysol concentrate to each quart/liter of alcohol.

Posted in cheap preps, personal, prepping, science kits | 117 Comments