Month: October 2015

Saturday, 31 October 2015

08:35 – Barbara is off on a day trip with her friend Marcy, Frances and Al. Colin and I are on our own until this evening. Barbara reminded me to walk Colin about 17:00 and then keep the lights off to avoid invasion by little looters. No doubt Colin will get plenty of barking in this evening.

I’m doing laundry, but otherwise devoting the day to work on the prepping book.

10:45 – Reading Ross’s Unintended Consequences last night, I realized something. He had a kid back in the 50’s buying .22LR ammunition. A box of 50 sold for $0.78, which is about the same as I paid as a teenager in the 60’s. Bricks of 500 cost a bit less per round, call it $0.015/round. I remember walking to the gun store downtown and paying $6 or $7 for a brick. That was about 50 years ago, although even as recently as a decade ago WalMart sold bricks for $11 or $12, and often $8 or $9 on sale. But there’s no reason that .22LR ammo should be immune to inflation. When I was paying $6/brick in the mid-60’s, one could buy a decent new car for $2,500 or $3,000. That would be ten times as much today, about $0.15/round, but a brick of .22LR doesn’t cost $60 or $70. As a matter of fact, a month ago I bought a bucket of 1,400 rounds for $80, or about $0.057/round. I doubt we’ll ever see .22LR at a lower price/round.

Once we get relocated and make sure our finances are straight, I think I’ll buy a bunch more buckets. Kept dry, the stuff lasts forever. I’ve fired thousands of rounds of .22LR that was 30 years old or more, and had no problems with it. (It does degrade quickly if you don’t keep it sealed against moisture, but those buckets provide an excellent moisture seal.) It’s easy to sell any time, and it retains/increases its value versus the dollar. In my opinion, it’s a much better value store than precious metals. Not nearly as volatile, and there’s no danger of buying in at a high. Just eyeballing it, it seems to me that .22LR is now selling for not much over actual cost of brass, powder, and lead. There’s no room for the price to fall.

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Friday, 30 October 2015

08:56 – The lead headline in the paper this morning says that 24% of Winston-Salem residents live in poverty. Says who? How can anyone define poverty to include people who have plenty to eat, including meat every day if they want it, heated living quarters, television and cable service, their own automobiles, money in their pockets, and even cell phones, all provided at taxpayer expense? Living in real poverty means you have none of those things, and by that definition more like 0% of Winston-Salem residents live in poverty.

Enough is never enough for these clients of the state and the politicians who covet their votes. Neither will be satisfied until tax-consumers enjoy a better standard of living than the taxpayers who support them.

Email from Jen. One of the men in her extended group had suggested that they do their second trial run over the Christmas holiday, a suggestion that was quickly vetoed by all of the women and most of the men. Instead, they’re going to do a four-day second trial run starting on Thursday, 12/31 and running through the holiday weekend. They figure that’ll give them enough time to digest the results from the Thanksgiving trial run and make any fixes necessary.

Here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • We’re just about finished packing up the seed containers. We got germination on all the seed species, although in some cases we almost literally needed a microscope to see evidence of germination. All that remains is to bin them into sets and do the final packaging in foil-laminate Mylar bags. Well, that and I have to finish the planting guide, create and print the main package labels, and make up the PBS saline for the Rhizobia culture and bottle it. My original goal was to ship the kits in mid- to late November, and getting that done shouldn’t be any problem.
  • I put in several hours on the prepping book. I think another thousand hours will do it to finish volume one.
  • I read William Forstchen’s One Year After, the sequel to his earlier One Second After. I won’t link to either book, because the ebooks are priced outrageously. I wouldn’t have read either if readers hadn’t sent me copies. The second book is better-edited but no better-written than the first, which is to say it’s second-tier. And that’s grading on the not-too-demanding curve that I apply to PA novels. Rather bizarrely, the sequel opens exactly TWO Years After the first. Not only can’t Forstchen write, he apparently can’t count, either. I also started reading John Ross’s Unintended Consequences, a massive tome that’s larger even than Crawford’s Lights Out. Ross’s book is apparently out of print, although you can buy used paperback copies for $28 and up. The book appears so far to be a collection of snippets that relate in one way or another to America’s “gun culture”, presented as a spirited defense of the 2nd Amendment.

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

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Thursday, 29 October 2015

08:05 – Email from Jen. A couple months ago, she said she and her family intended to run another readiness exercise later in the year, when the weather was colder. Well, it’s later in the year, the weather is turning colder, and they’ve decided on a rather ambitious plan. They’re going to hold a four-day readiness exercise over the Thanksgiving weekend. Jen and her husband will participate, along with Jen’s brother and his family, for a total of six people. Prepper friends of Jen’s family that live about 30 miles from Jen will also participate: the husband and wife, their three young-adult sons, and their daughter-in-law, bringing the total to twelve people. They plan to do Thanksgiving dinner completely off-grid, using only their stored supplies and equipment. What could go wrong? They’ll find out, and Jen promises to report to me on the results. It sounds to me as though they’re planning the private equivalent of Operation Overlord.

It won’t be just a holiday get-together minus central heat, electric power, and other utilities. They’re going to simulate a serious disaster. The second family and Jen’s extended family have agreed to be evacuation destinations for each other, and they’re going to run it as a simulated evacuation, with the second family bugging out in multiple vehicles, carrying as much of their emergency supplies and kit as possible. The bell rings at 6:00 p.m. on that Wednesday evening. Until then, the second family will just be doing what they usually do on a normal day. At the stroke of six, the emergency evacuation commences, with hurried packing up of their vehicles and a convoy to Jen’s place. Bridges will be down and roads blocked (virtually speaking, of course), so the other family will have to use alternative routes. (They won’t know about what specific travel problems they’ll encounter until they’re actually on the road.) Once they arrive and unload, there will be various scenarios, including a medical emergency and an attack by ravening hordes of zombies. They’ll maintain a round-the-clock watch to spot any zombies before they attack, as well as a 24-hour radio watch. It all sounds like great fun, and I wish we were participating. I suspect they’ll all learn a lot.

As indeed they expect to. Jen says they’ll be taking copious notes on what goes right and, more importantly, what goes wrong. Once they’ve thought it through and talked it out, they intend to run another long-weekend readiness exercise, but this time with Jen and her extended family evacuating and the other family playing host.

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Wednesday, 28 October 2015

09:02 – Still no word on the house. If it happens, it happens. Otherwise, we’ll just keep looking.

Someone mentioned that muslims consider “moslem” to be the most offensive way to label them, so I’ll try to use that form from now on. A month or so ago, the MSM were full of articles about tens of thousands of moslem invaders overrunning Europe, although of course they referred to them as “migrants” and “refugees” rather than calling them what they actually are, invaders. Over the last few weeks, such reports have almost disappeared from the MSM. One might almost believe that the invasion had failed and all the moslems had returned home.

My private correspondents in Europe tell a different story. In their view, western European governments have failed to stem this invasion, so ordinary citizens have had to take up the slack. They see these invaders for what they are, and don’t want them in Europe. Firearms purchases are way up, which is extraordinary given how hard it is in Europe for private citizens to buy guns. Ordinary Europeans don’t want these scum to settle in Europe, and seem to be taking steps on their own to make it very clear to the scum that they’re not welcome. Even Scandanavians, who may be the most laid-back people on the planet, are beginning to take violent action against the scum. I expect to see the violence increase. If their governments won’t put a stop to this invasion, ordinary citizens have no alternative to doing it themselves. Either that, or get out. I’ve heard from more than a few Europeans who plan to emigrate to the US, Canada, or Australia. It’s interesting that all of the popular destinations are in English-speaking countries.

11:55 – We’re just back from a very small Costco run. First time we’ve ever gotten out for less than $100, IIRC, other than maybe a time or two when we went just because Paul and Mary needed to make a run.

About the only prepping-related stuff we picked up were two 6-packs of Kirkland gallons of bottled water, a couple cans of Country Time Lemonade, and 1,152 ziplock bags, 1,000 sandwich size easy-open ones, and 152 gallon freezer. Barbara drinks the Kirkland water, and I covet the bottles for storing bulk staples. They’re heavy PET, and the mouths are wide enough to fill easily. They take forever to dry naturally, but it’s easy enough to add a pound or so of dry rice and shake it around to absorb moisture.

We decided to use those sandwich bags to package most of the seeds for the kits. They’re large enough to hold up to a pound of seeds each. We’re double-bagging and taping the bags closed to prevent any problems if they take a hit in shipping. We’ll enclose those bags in heavy foil-laminate Mylar bags, which should keep everything secure.

I’ve gotten several emails about lib/prog family members or friends who’ve purchased firearms and started to store food and other emergency supplies. What must it take to make it obvious even to progs that things aren’t going well? What must it take to get a prog to buy a gun? Geez.

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Tuesday, 27 October 2015

07:54 – Maybe it’s just me, but in the last few months it seems that the world has been slowing down. It’s like kicking over an ant hill or opening a beehive and finding that the insect activity has dropped to nearly nothing. Even my email and comment spam has fallen way off. It seems that no one is actually doing much of anything any more. What new news there is is almost always bad, and it seems that the economy has slowed almost to a stop. I feel as though I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop and things to come to a complete stop. Have the progressives actually won the war and brought all useful activity to a halt?

If that’s the case, we’re in a situation that will require only a tiny spark to set off an inferno. I dread reading the first news reports of an incident that will turn out in retrospect to be that spark. Or maybe it’s just me. Unlike many of my readers, who are expecting an incident that spreads and causes a rapid devolution into chaos, I’m still expecting a gradual slide into dystopia. But I freely admit that I might be wrong about that. The entire country is balanced precariously on the edge of a precipice, and it wouldn’t take much to tip us over.

The consensus seems to be serious concern about the state of things currently and where we’re heading. Many people have left concern behind and now live in outright fear of what’s coming. Not surprising, considering that an outright majority of employed people now earn $30,000/year or less, and that tens of millions not only have no jobs, but no prospects of ever having a job again. Not that long ago, living paycheck-to-paycheck was considered a sign of economic hardship. Nowadays, you’re doing well if you can live paycheck-to-paycheck without going further into debt. Millions of recent college graduates are unemployed or working at menial jobs, crushed under the weight of student loan payments. The vast majority of them will probably never hold a “real” job.

The main reason we’re focusing on relocating is to get away from the city and the underclass before things break down completely and the cities erupt in flames and violence. If we end up stranded here when things really go pear-shaped, we’ll still manage to get by, or so I hope. The disadvantages of being in a suburban setting when TSHFT are obvious; we’re surrounded by the underclass. The advantages are less obvious, but nonetheless real; if there’s a long-term grid-down event or a breakdown in transportation, more heavily-populated areas will have power restored and continuing food shipments before rural areas see any relief efforts.

So, is it just me, or are we really nearing the breaking point?

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Monday, 26 October 2015

10:20 – Work on packaging seeds continues. We got half a dozen species packaged yesterday, with more on the schedule for today. We’re sold out of the first batch, but continuing to take orders from readers at the discounted price. I’ll also have Barbara working this week on more science kits.

Among all the other tasks, I’m trying to get in some heads-down work on the prepping book. It’s progressing, although more slowly than I’d like.

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Sunday, 25 October 2015

08:40 – We did the first check yesterday on the germination tests we’re running on the seeds to be included in the kits. Four days had passed since we started the seeds that had undergone one freeze/thaw transition, and the results were pretty much as expected.

Many of the species showed good germination rates, including barley (94%), basil (90%), dry soldier bean (92%), green bean (100%), Lima bean (73%), beet (93%), broccoli (83%), sweet corn (93%), pea (83%), summer squash (100%), sunflower (93%), tomato (93%), and turnip (84%). Those are all fast-germinating species, and we can get started packaging them for the kits.

Several others showed moderate germination rates, including amaranth (50%), hulless oats (63%), and onion (50%). Those are all slower-germinating species, and we simply returned them to their baggies to allow them more time to germinate. We’ll check them again in a few days, by which time I expect the rates to be noticeably higher.

A few other species showed minor signs of germination, including carrot, dill, oregano, and parsley. Those were just getting started. We’ll check them again in a week or so.

Several species showed no signs of germination, including parsnip, pepper, rosemary, sage, winter squash, St. John’s wort, and thyme. After only four days, that was expected. All of those are very slow to germinate, in some cases taking three weeks or more. We’ll check them all again in a couple of weeks, but I expect all of them to be viable, if slow. Some of them, like parsnip, are very slow to germinate but will show good percentage germination. Others, like rosemary, are extremely slow to germinate, and will also show very low germination rates. The good news is that the ones with very low germination rates, like rosemary, are extremely robust once they’re established, and subsequently propagate like weeds. The herbs in particular are weed-like, to the extent that you’ll probably want to plant them in pots to prevent them from taking over your garden.

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Saturday, 24 October 2015

10:17 – We’re doing the usual Saturday stuff. As soon as I post this, I’ll start the laundry. This afternoon we’ll do more packing/cleaning in the library and my office.

This weekend, we’ll do a quick check of some of the germination test baggies. Some of the species should be well on their ways by now, but some won’t show any change yet. In particular, parsnips are notoriously slow-germinating. I won’t bother to check them until they’ve had three weeks to get started.

We’re expecting to hear about the house on Monday. The bank that holds the main mortgage on the property has already accepted our offer. The holdup is that some idiots gave the owners a second mortgage AFTER they’d declared bankruptcy in 2013 AND AFTER that bankruptcy had been cleared by the court last November. So that debt is still current and the second mortgage company has filed a lien against the property. The bank that holds the first mortgage is on the edge of foreclosing. If that happens, the second mortgage company gets nothing at all, so they should be motivated to take a small fraction of what they’re owed. We authorized our broker to offer them $5,000. Our real estate attorney is waiting to hear back from the second mortgage holders. If they refuse, the property gets foreclosed, they lose everything, and all bets are off on the sale of the house.

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Friday, 23 October 2015

08:30 – The bread we baked yesterday turned out fine, actually better than our earlier efforts. The bread was noticeably drier this time. If I didn’t know we’d made it ourselves, I would have thought Barbara bought it at a bakery.

We’re rapidly getting through watching the BBC Historical Farm series. We’ve finished Tudor Monastery Farm and Secrets of the Castle, and are 3/4 of the way through the 12-episode Green Valley series. Next up is either Victorian Farm or Victorian Pharmacy. We finished watching series one of Little House on the Prairie, and will start series two shortly. It’s kind of hokey, with inferior writing and some truly bad acting, but it’s interesting nonetheless for a reasonably accurate representation of rural life in the 1870’s. It maintains a strong focus on self-reliance and getting the job done no matter what.

Here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • Although the offer we made on the house up in Sparta is still hung up in paperwork, we’ve started packing up stuff on the assumption that it will go through. If not, that’s fine, because we will eventually be relocating, whether it’s to Sparta or somewhere else in the western North Carolina mountains, and the stuff we’re packing up can sit in boxes for a long time without us needing it.
  • I continued work on the open-pollinated seed kits. We’re currently awaiting the outcome of the germination testing after a freeze/thaw cycle. I’m still working on the planting guide.
  • I started work on organizing reference books for the Kindles. Step One is to use Calibre with the de-DRM plug-in to produce portable copies of each book. Step Two is to organize those books into Kindle categories in an on-disk directory structure on my PC. Step Three is to use the on-line tool at this web site to create the Kindle category structure on disk and then transfer it to our Kindles.

We won’t depend entirely on Kindle ebooks. They require power and aren’t ideal for displaying PDFs and other graphics-heavy titles. I don’t believe that a Kindle would be damaged by an EMP, but it’s possible they would if they hadn’t been stored in a Faraday cage. But overall, Kindles are an excellent and inexpensive way to store literally thousands of books in a very small space. Many more books than we’d have space to store in pbook form. And of course those ebooks can also be backed up to USB flash drives for later transfer to a surviving Kindle or tablet. In fact, I’ll probably convert each of them to epub format just to maximize their potential usefulness.

All of that said, your library should also include as many useful pbooks as possible. Disregarding fiction, our library currently contains probably 1,000+ useful or potentially useful pbooks, many of which we picked up for nothing or next to nothing at library booksales or used bookstores, and all of those will definitely be going with us when we relocate. When she was packing up books in the living-room/library the other day, Barbara was about to put a full print version of Encyclopedia Britannica in the Goodwill pile. I immediately reclaimed it, not because we have any current use for it, but because it’s a potentially priceless collection of knowledge.

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

Read the comments: 65 Comments

Thursday, 22 October 2015

08:37 – Thanks to everyone who sent me copies of One Year After. I started reading it last night after Barbara went back to bed, and got through the first third or so before I decided to call it a night. In the front matter, Forstchen seems to be taking credit with faint disclaimers for the rise of the prepping phenomenon. In reality, his 2009 book One Second After was very late to the party. For that matter, the LDS Church was late to the party, and that was a hundred years before Forstchen was born. Even the Tudor Monastery Farm series we watched a few days ago was about people who were late to the prepping party, and that was 500 years ago. The reality is that people have been prepping ever since there have been people, more than a thousand millennia ago. Forstchen noticed only a decade or so ago.

We made up another batch of no-knead bread dough after lunch yesterday. It rose overnight to about twice its initial size and will go into the oven shortly. The recipe couldn’t be much simpler: six cups of white flour (actually, 840 grams because I use mass instead of volume measure), two teaspoons of salt, two teaspoons of yeast, and 3 cups of water. That’s sufficient to make two standard loaves of about one pound each. We’ll eat some tonight with dinner and freeze the rest.

We changed the baking method. In the past, we covered the metal pans with aluminum foil, baked at 450F (232C) for 30 minutes, removed the foil, and continued baking for 15 minutes to brown the top crust. This time, we’re baking the loaves uncovered in silicone pans for an hour at only 350F (177C). If it turns out badly, it’s no great loss. Experimenting with recipes is a good thing.

I’d like to be able to bake two of these loaves every day for a year, so I’ll need about 700 pounds of flour, plus the yeast and salt. At about four calories per gram of flour, two loaves per day is roughly 3,400 calories/day, which should suffice for two people if they’re depending on that bread for roughly 70% of their overall nutrition, four people if the bread is to provide roughly a third of their overall nutrition, and six or eight people if bread (and pancakes) is to make up only a small part of their overall nutrition, supplemented by pasta, rice, potatoes, and so on. That 700 pounds is fourteen 50-pound bags–roughly $225 worth–which can be repackaged in PET bottles or foil-laminate Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, which should keep it good for 10 years or more. As I mentioned before, I’ll store mostly white bread flour, which is high in gluten (protein) and can be used to make just about anything you’d want to make with flour.

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