Monday, 30 November 2015

08:23 – As of today, the new house is ours. We have so much to do in Winston-Salem to get ready for the move that we decided not to stay up in Sparta tonight. Instead, we’ll make a flying trip up there for the closing and then head back down here tonight. That way, we can get an early start tomorrow morning on the continuing packing. We’ve already arranged for a locksmith to change the locks this afternoon or first thing tomorrow morning and deliver the keys to us. The movers are coming Friday to haul all our furniture and other heavy/bulky stuff up, so as of Friday afternoon we’ll officially be moved. I told Colin that come Friday he will officially be a Spartan Dog.

The electricity is already in our name, and we’ll stop by the Internet provider to get the fiber broadband turned on as of this afternoon. Barbara has already changed the billing address on our credit cards to our new address, and I’ve changed the ship-to address for Amazon, WalMart, and the other vendors we buy from on-line. We need to stop by Costco to make that change in person. Today or tomorrow, I need to cancel our Internet service here and call Buck Stoves to find out about getting a wood stove installed. There’s already a good sized wood pile up there. It’s rotting, but it’ll do for now. Once we’re moved in, I’ll see about getting a cord or two of fresh wood delivered. Before I do that, I want to get one of those steel tube firewood racks installed to keep the wood up off the ground. And Barbara is going to meet her sister and go off in search of some new furniture to have delivered here this week so the movers can move it up to Sparta on Friday.

Email from Jen overnight. Their simulation over the Thanksgiving weekend went pretty well. Her husband was badly wounded in an attack by rampaging zombies. As a veterinarian, he was their primary medical person, so him being wounded was a problem. They talked about the need for having at least one more person trained in trauma care, and decided that it made sense to have two of their group go through first-level EMT training at the local community college and then train others in the basics. Their well pump also failed, so they had to haul water up to the garage, pre-filter it, and then run it through their Sawyer SP191 Point Zero Two water filter to provide water for most of the long weekend. They also found that maintaining a 24-hour watch was a lot more wearing than they expected it to be, particularly since they were down a person. Overall, though, Jen thought the trial went very well, and said they all think they’re pretty well prepared to deal with just about any emergency.


Saturday, 28 November 2015

07:14 – I told Barbara yesterday that I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of installing a propane stove, for a lot of reasons. I said that we could get one if she really, really wanted to, but no matter what I wanted to have at least a small wood stove. She understands my reasons for wanting a wood stove, and she agreed not to get the propane stove but a wood stove instead.

We decided on a Little John stove from Buck Stoves. It looks perfect for our needs: about 75,000 BTU/hr output, a 22″ 2.8 cubic foot firebox, non-catalytic so there’s nothing that needs replaced periodically, and it has a flat top that could be used in an emergency for cooking. It’s even EPA-exempt, although I’m not entirely sure what that means other than that there shouldn’t be any hassles getting it installed and using it. I’ll call the fire marshal and ask what permits or other stuff we need to get to be legal. I already asked our home insurance agent, and he said it wouldn’t be a problem.

It’ll go in the unfinished basement area, which already has two 6″ flues specifically installed for a wood stove. There’s a concrete floor and a concrete block wall. The outside door in the unfinished area opens onto a large concrete pad, and is covered by the deck, so we have a good place to put a woodpile under cover. The deck will keep not just rain but also snow off the wood pile, and it’d be a 20 foot walk from the woodpile to the stove, without any stairs.

Best of all, the stove is low-end price-wise, at around $650. It’ll cost more to get it delivered and installed, of course, but that shouldn’t be outrageous considering that there was a wood stove already there that the old owners hauled off. In fact, we may just run down and pick up one at the factory, which happens to be in the western NC mountains about 70 miles from our house.

If there’s one thing that Sparta, NC has, it’s trees, so I imagine that a cord or two of wood will be competitively priced. Wood will certainly be less expensive per therm than electricity, so we’ll probably keep the wood stove going at least intermittently all winter long.


Friday, 27 November 2015

08:59 – Colin appears to be fully recovered. We’ll continue the metronidazole for the full five days, but it’s already knocked down the infection. He should be good to go by Monday for the trip up to Sparta to close on the house. We already have the Trooper packed up with stuff we’ll haul up there to drop off at the new house. Other than that, we’ll be here until moving day on Friday the 4th, getting stuff packed up for the movers.

I needed to do some calculations for propane versus electricity costs. Our primary heat is a heat pump, so when the outside temperature gets down around freezing we’ll be using pure resistive heating, at about 3,412 BTU per KW/h. Propane yields about 91,500 BTU per gallon, so one gallon of propane is the equivalent of about 26.82 KW/h. Blue Ridge Electric Co-Op charges $2.25/gallon for propane, so I need to find out what they charge for electricity to do the comparison. We’re having a small unvented propane heater installed. It provides 25,000 BTU/hr, which means it’ll run for 366 hours on the 100 gallon tank they suggested. That’s 15.25 days running around the clock, or roughly a month running it about half of the time. That 25,000 BTU/hr heater should be sufficient to keep the pipes from freezing if the power fails, as well as keeping the downstairs at a livable temperature and the upstairs above freezing.

They’ll install a 250 gallon or larger tank if we tell them to, but the deal is that we have to use a full tank every year or we have to pay tank rental charges, which aren’t cheap. I’ll talk more with them, but I think we’ll probably end up going with the 100 gallon tank they suggested.

We’ll then use that propane heater as our secondary heat source, but I’m uncomfortable depending on just propane. Barbara didn’t want a wood stove because it’s messy, requires stored wood, and so on, but I want to have a wood stove even if we don’t normally use it. So I’m going to start checking into wood stoves and get at least a small one for the unfinished basement area. That’ll give us probably 50,000+ BTUs of backup heat that uses a renewable fuel source.


11:58 – The open-pollinated seed kits are boxed up and ready to for pickup this afternoon. They’re going via USPS Priority Mail. If you ordered a seed kit, you should receive it Monday or Tuesday.

Rather than sealing the individual seed bags in Mylar bags, we’re shipping the seed bags separately, grouped into a plastic t-shirt bag. We also include two one-gallon Mylar bags and one sheet of two half-page labels that list the contents. You can repackage the seeds yourself into the Mylar bags and seal them once you’re ready to do so. To seal them, pack them with the individual seed bags, place the open end on wood or another impervious surface, and use a clothes iron or curling iron set on hot (wool or cotton) to run across the open end of the bag and melt it closed. Just a slow pass should suffice, call it a couple seconds of contact time. We did it this way because we highly recommend pulling at least a few seeds from each bag and planting them in foam cups to get a little bit of experience with them. (It’s not even obvious, for example, which sprouting plant is produced by each type of seed.)

The herbs in particular are very slow to germinate and many have very low germination rates. That’s normal, and it’s a good idea to start some of each herb seed indoors in pots at least two or three months before the last spring frost. We didn’t include the planting guide because I haven’t had time to finish writing it. I’ll email a copy to everyone once it’s complete.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

08:35 – Colin still had the squirties yesterday, so Barbara called our vet. We hauled him out there for a checkup late yesterday afternoon. She put him on metronidazole BID for five days and recommended (as Jenny had earlier in the comments) giving him two tablespoons of canned pumpkin twice a day for soluble fiber. We stopped at Lowe’s on the way home and Barbara grabbed several cans of 100% pumpkin. As it turns out, Colin loves the stuff, so we’ll keep it in stock. Barbara is going to start using it instead of lunch meat to give him his pills every morning.

The movers came yesterday to give us an estimate for the move. It’s based on weight and distance. Up to about 11,000 pounds, it’s $22.50 per hundred pounds, which’d run us about $2,000 for the weight he estimated. The price per hundred pounds drops after 11,000 pounds, so it might go up to about $3,000 maximum if we have them haul a lot of our extra heavy stuff like canned food. I can haul 1,000 pounds at a time in the Trooper, or about $225 worth per trip, and Al can haul 1,600 pounds at a time in his pickup, or $360 worth, so we’ll haul a lot of the stuff that’s heavy but easy to fit in one of vehicles. In other words, we’ll have them haul up furniture and light but bulky stuff, while we’ll haul stuff like LTS food and water bottles. It doesn’t make sense to have them haul, say, cases of bottled water. They cost only about $3.50 per 50-pound case, and they’d charge $11.25 in haulage fees.

We close on the house this coming Monday, the 30th, for which we have a house-sitter lined up to stay at the old house. Moving day is Friday of next week, so as of Friday 12/4 we’ll officially be living in Sparta. We’ll still be down to Winston-Salem frequently, both to get the house ready to go on the market and to haul up stuff that we don’t have the movers haul for us. I’m not too worried about security at the old house. After 12/4, the only stuff left here will be low-value items that aren’t worth stealing.


Wednesday, 25 November 2015

08:47 – More packing. We got the cased long-term storage food stacked up in the basement near the garage door, ready to load. There’s more than half a ton of that: about 240 #10 cans of dry staples from the LDS Home Storage Center in cases of six cans each, another 60 #10 cans of stuff from Augason Farms, and half a dozen cases of canned meats. That’s roughly half of our total food storage. We also have the stuff upstairs in the kitchen and pantry, and a full 4′ by 2′ ceiling-high shelf unit in the basement that’s full of canned and bottled goods–vegetables, soups, spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, etc. etc. Our current total of food is something over a ton. We’ll move most or all of that on our second trip up to Sparta after we close on the house. The first trip will be the stuff we need to get by at the new house, even if it’s just camping out in the bedroom.

Meanwhile, of course, we continue to ship science kits. Sales normally start to speed up around Thanksgiving and maintain a good pace through the end of January or so. I have three kits to ship so far today.

We decided to drop our VoIP phone line and go to using cell phones exclusively. Our Verizon cell phones get five bars all over the Sparta area, including inside the new house. At this point, literally 99% of the calls we get on our VoIP land line are telemarketing robocalls. It’s just not worth keeping it.

Barbara said her days of doing yard work are over. With about 1.5 acres of yard at the new place, she said she just wants to hire someone to mow the lawn. She’ll continue gardening, but that’s it for yard work.


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

07:48 – Ooh Rah! We’ve finished packing up the stuff we need to take along to the closing next Monday, and gotten it loaded into our vehicles. Other than last-minute stuff, that’s it for this phase. Now we return to packing up stuff for the next trips up: clothing, LTS food, Christmas stuff, and so on. Barbara’s goal is to be completely moved up to Sparta in time to have Christmas there. I think that may be optimistic, but we’ll see. The movers are coming tomorrow to give us an estimate, and we have no idea when they’ll be able to move the furniture. But that really doesn’t matter much. We can certainly be living in Sparta by Christmas, but we may still be using the air mattress, folding tables and chairs, and so on.

I’m counting on Barbara to keep us organized. Time was when I could keep everything in my head, including detailed to-do lists. I can’t do that any more, so Barbara’s organizing skills are critical. That also means she can’t yell at me if I forget something.

Incidentally, my apologies for not being very responsive to comments. We just have so much going on at the moment that I don’t really have the time to keep up with them. I hope that’ll change once we’ve closed on the house and pretty much moved up there.

Back to packing.


Monday, 23 November 2015

08:17 – We’re still packing up for the move. There are boxes stacked all over the place, and more yet to be packed. We’ve segregated the items we’ll need to take up to the closing next Monday afternoon so that we can stay at the new house Monday night. Those items are all going into Barbara’s car and my SUV, which makes it hard to use them for anything else in the interim. Fortunately, we don’t have anywhere we need to go between now and then. Last in will be trash bags full of empty 2L and one-gallon PET bottles. I’ll fill those once we get up there to give us an emergency water supply. I want to have at least 30 liters per day stored for Barbara, Colin, and me, which means we’ll need a couple hundred of those bottles for a two-week supply.

I have a NIB TV I got from Costco. It’s a smart TV, which is supposed to be able to get Netflix and Amazon streaming over a Wi-Fi connection without using a Roku or other external adapter. Just in case, I’m packing up our old Roku 2 adapter, which we kept as a spare when we got the Roku 3. I’m also taking along my notebook, which I have to get set up to use for processing kit orders and printing labels, a laser printer and a supply of paper and labels, a NIB Wi-Fi router, and assorted cables. I have another box with a charger for our cell-phones, a Kindle Fire fast charger, and assorted other minor gear. And lots of AA, AAA, C, and 9V alkalines to power various stuff.

Barbara is also clearing the steel shelving unit we use to store our long-term supply of canned and bottled foods. Most of those are already in cardboard or shrink-wrapped cases, so they won’t need further packaging. Some are individual cans, which she’ll transfer to boxes or flats. All the LDS store stuff is in cases of six #10 cans each, so it’s ready to go. We won’t have room in the vehicles to transfer much of it on our first trip up to the closing, but it’s a high priority to get it up to Sparta as soon as possible thereafter. I’ll expand our inventory of long-term dry staples once we’re up there, either by getting more stuff from the LDS HSC or just by repackaging stuff like flour, beans, sugar, and rice from 50-pound bags into gallon Mylar foil-laminate bags. We’re already in pretty good shape in terms of meal extenders like powdered eggs, cheese and butter powder, bouillon, canned meats, and so on, but I want to expand our inventory of bulk dry staples significantly. They’re cheap, compact, last forever, and it makes sense to have a large amount of them on hand.

Back to packing.


Sunday, 22 November 2015

09:43 – I just got back from walking Colin, who has the squirties. I wore just my hoodie, since the thermometer said it was 47F outside. I’m sure that’s correct, but it didn’t account for the wind, which was gusting up to 25 or 30 MPH. The cold cut through my hoodie and my sweat pants. I have my own metric for wind chill. I subtract one degree from the nominal temperature for each one MPH of wind speed, which yields an accurate “feels like” temperature for me. That means it felt like 17F to 22F out there, which indeed is what it felt like to me.

I did laundry yesterday as usual. Barbara is cleaning house today, as usual, although with all the stuff sitting around packed up she’ll only be able to do a quick run through with the vacuum and clean the bathrooms.

With only a week to go, we’ve still got a lot of stuff left to pack up. I actually thought about renting a storage unit up in Sparta so we’d have somewhere to pile stuff until we can get into the new house, but we might as well spend our time down here getting stuff packed up and then just move it directly to the house once we have it. Barbara said there’s no way she wants to move this stuff twice.

Barbara got a lot of the science kit component inventory boxed up and stacked yesterday, and will get more done today and this coming week. I’ll be working on other stuff, including making sure we have what we need up there to have functioning computers and a TV once we’re up there and have Internet service working. I also need to call the Blue Ridge Electric Co-Op tomorrow about scheduling them to install a propane tank and heater in case we have a power failure. We’re going to get an unvented 25,000 BTU/hr heater, which is enough to keep the downstairs den and bedrooms at normal room temperature and keep the main floor warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing. The biggest propane tank they had when we visited them the other day was 100 gallons, which is enough to run a 25K BTU/hr heater running 24 hours a day for about 25 days. I’m going to see if they can install a 250 gallon tank instead, or even a 500 gallon tank.

Back to packing.


Saturday, 21 November 2015

08:20 – I read an article in the paper this morning about two robberies of two taxi drivers in two days, at the same address. That got me thinking about all those articles I’ve seen recently about cities and taxi companies trying to ban Uber and Lyft. If Uber and Lyft aren’t banned, they’ll put old-style taxi companies out of business except in areas where Uber/Lyft drivers won’t go to pick up fares. And how will that impact those poor robbers who depend on robbing taxi drivers to make a living? It’s just so unfair.

We close on the new house late Monday afternoon, November 30th, so as of 1 December we’ll be officially in the new house. We’ll have a friend house-sitting in the current house for the time being, starting next Friday and lasting through at least the end of the year and possibly through January, depending on how long it takes the current residents to clear out of the house he just bought. We’ll be making multiple runs up to Sparta the first week of December to transfer most of our stuff other than furniture, which we’ll hire movers to transfer for us. Which means we have less than two weeks to get all this stuff packed up and ready to transfer. We have enough finished-goods inventory of science kits to last us through at least mid-December, so we’ll haul part of them up to Sparta initially to allow us to continue shipping uninterrupted.

With everything that’s going on, posts here are likely to be short and sporadic for the next couple of weeks.


09:22 – Hah. I just found the charger for the FRS/GMRS HT’s and put them on to charge. Actually, the battery pack bundled with them holds a charge very well. I tested them by charging them completely and then letting them sit a couple of months. The charge was still at 90%+. Worst case, they can also use alkalines. I just gave Barbara a 15-second crash course in how to use the HT’s. We’ll use one in each vehicle when we’re taking both up to Sparta on transfer runs.

Frances and Al also kindly offered to help with the move, using Al’s pickup. He can haul 1,600 pounds of bulky items, so even one run up there will help a lot. I’m going to restrict my 22-year-old Trooper to 1,000 pounds per run. I was thinking about getting a trailer hitch installed and renting a trailer, but Barbara’s afraid the old Trooper would drop dead on its way up the mountain.