Month: December 2015

Monday, 21 December 2015

12:34 – We’re still moving furniture around downstairs, but the downstairs den is now pretty much the way Barbara wants it in terms of furniture placement. We now have five large bookcases sitting empty that we need to get books transferred onto. Those bookcases, incidentally, could be moved upstairs, where they’d make excellent gabions if push ever comes to shove.

Other than the stuff I’ve mentioned about getting science kit production ramped up, the major item on my to-do list is to get at least a basic off-grid solar setup installed. Before I do that, I need to find out whether our well pump is 120VAC or 240VAC, and find out what the start-up and run currents are. At this point, I’m assuming that a 5KW true sine-wave inverter will do the job. An 800W array, something like this one, should reliably produce maybe 2.4KWh on an average day and more on a good day, which’d require about 180AH of deep-cycle batteries to store a day’s worth of output. This would obviously be a major project in terms of time, effort, and cost, so for the time being we’ll depend on our 7KW generator.

Still no word on what happened in Las Vegas, although I find it suspicious that the authorities have not released the name of the would-be mass murderess. I’m guessing it’ll be a moslem-sounding name. The authorities have been at pains to emphasize that this wasn’t terrorism, which of course makes me think it probably was.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

14:00 – We decided to make a quick run down to Winston yesterday to haul more stuff up here. It was 1:15 down, about 1:30 down there loading, and 1:15 back, for a total of about 4 hours portal-to-portal. Frances and Al met us at the house with their pickup, and we hauled back a full pickup load plus a full Trooper load, including just about all of the remaining science kit chemicals and nearly all of the remaining food. Al and Frances left for home after lunch, and we spent the afternoon moving stuff that needed to be in the heated area there from the garage and vice versa.

We spent most of the morning working downstairs, rearranging furniture in the den. The guest bedroom is now essentially complete. We moved my new desk (a This End Up dining table) to my new office, which is the second downstairs bedroom. I now have my computer, printers, and other gear set up and working in there. There’s still a lot to be done in my office, including installing shelves and moving all my office stuff in. Oh, and I got the propane tank connected to Barbara’s new grill, which she’s going to use to make dinner tonight.

I see the Baltimore cops shot another black guy. The dumb SOB tried to rob an off-duty cop at gunpoint using a realistic-looking toy gun, and got exactly what he deserved, not that that’s likely to stop the UC from rioting. And there was another death by cop incident, this one in WS. The cops sprayed a criminal with pepper spray and he became unresponsive and ended up DOA. The dead guy’s father flew in from Denver, and is trying to stir things up. The only reason that I care is that Frances and Al are still in WS, and we still own a house there. And just yesterday at lunch, I was telling Al that although I didn’t expect mob violence in WS in the near future, he and Frances were welcome at our house here any time.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

07:37 – We had a blizzard here last night: low in the lower 20’s, winds gusting to 35 MPH, and almost a trace of snow. Today and tonight are to be a bit warmer, but it’ll still be a good day to stay inside.

We plan to spend the day hauling stuff around and organizing it. The downstairs den now has most of the boxes and bins cleared out, leaving only furniture. We’ll get that placed as we wish, transfer books back to the bookshelves, and so on. One of the downstairs bedrooms is now set up and usable as the guest bedroom. The other is my office, which still has stuff stacked all over the place, but at least it’s now fairly well organized. We’ll probably make a quick run down to Winston tomorrow or Monday to haul up still more stuff.

Then we’ll tackle the unfinished area in the basement and get it set up for kit production.

Friday, 18 December 2015

09:12 – The weather is turning cooler here, at least for a couple days. Our high today is to be in the 30’s and the low tonight well below freezing. It’s also been windy lately. I’m not sure if that’s just normal for an exposed area in the mountains or if it’s been windier than normal. At any rate, today will be a good day to stay indoors and work on getting things organized.

Kit shipments are behind last year’s for this time of year, but from what I’m hearing from other small businesses that’s pretty common. It seems that the economy in general is slowing down and has been all year. We’ll be taking steps to increase sales in 2016, including introducing new kits and a new line of economy kits.

Things have also been slow on the prepping front. We’re in reasonably good shape now, so we’ll be making only incremental improvements in the coming weeks and months. Here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • I started compiling a list of local progs for future reference. Unfortunately (or fortunately), there don’t appear to be any. This is not a prog-friendly area.
  • I went through our current inventory and annotated it with a prioritized list of things to be acquired if, as, and when.

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

Thursday, 17 December 2015

11:37 – I don’t generally read the tracking emails that USPS sends me. For each kit, I might get a dozen or more emails, one for each milestone along the way. I have a filter set up in Thunderbird that automatically moves them from the inbox to the USPS directory. I do generally read the ones for foreign shipments, just to keep on top of them. Here’s one from a kit I shipped to Canada last Friday. Everything except for the second line looks normal. (The ISC is the USPS international shipping center in Miami. Everything goes there before heading out of the country. Even if we lived in Detroit and shipped a kit to Windsor, ONT a few miles away, it’d go to Miami first.) As for the second tracking line, I’m prepared to believe that the kit made a stop in London, ONT, but not London, UK. The times are all local, so it’s (barely) possible that this kit actually did go through London, UK, but I’d be very surprised if it did.

Shipment Activity Location Date & Time
Departed Vancouver, CANADA December 16, 2015 8:23 pm
Departed London, UNITED KINGDOM December 16, 2015 5:47 pm
Departed Miami, UNITED STATES December 15, 2015 9:45 pm
Arrived Miami, UNITED STATES December 15, 2015 5:28 pm
Processed Through Sort Facility ISC MIAMI FL (USPS) December 14, 2015 4:07 pm
Arrived at Sort Facility ISC MIAMI FL (USPS) December 14, 2015 4:07 pm
Arrived at USPS Facility MIAMI, FL 33112 December 13, 2015 9:52 pm
Departed USPS Facility GREENSBORO, NC 27498 December 12, 2015 3:50 am
Arrived at USPS Facility GREENSBORO, NC 27498 December 11, 2015 9:39 pm
Departed Post Office SPARTA, NC 28675 December 11, 2015 4:31 pm
Picked Up SPARTA, NC 28675 December 11, 2015 3:20 pm
Pre-Shipment Info Sent to USPS December 10, 2015

We’re busy today moving stuff around, putting up towel bars, and so on. A lot remains to be done, but things are starting to shape up. We need to get anything that’d be damaged by freezing out of the garage and into heated space. Conversely, we’ve got a lot of bulky stuff that’s not temperature-sensitive that needs to be transferred into the garage. Oddly, that category includes cases of lab thermometers, whose reason for being is to be temperature-sensitive, but they’re not damaged by temperatures within their measuring range and it’s unlikely that it will get lower than -40C or higher than +120C in our garage.

We’ve decided to leave my desk downstairs, at least until the Christmas stuff is taken down and repacked. I can check email and websites upstairs on my Kindle Fire, and that’s really all I need to do for now. When I need to do serious work, I can just come downstairs to do it. That’s better for Barbara and Colin as well, because they won’t have to tip-toe around while I’m trying to work. I may find somewhere upstairs to put the Brother 3070 Ethernet printer and a supply of paper and labels. I’ll keep the 5250DN USB printer downstairs on my desk.

We’re watching series one of Bosch on Amazon Prime streaming. It’s not as good as the books, but it’s pretty decent for a TV series. We’ve also got a lot of stuff in the on-deck circle. I was considering dropping Netflix streaming and signing up for Hulu commercial-free, but I think I’ll do all three for a while so that I can decide if we want to keep Netflix, Hulu, or both in addition to Amazon Prime.

I’m reading James Wesley, Rawles non-fiction prepping book. My main issues with it so far is that he’s drunk the Kool-Aid with regard to shelf lives of canned food and that he recommends the Big Berkey water filter. That device is defective by design. Suspect water goes in the top container and passes through the filters into the lower container, from which it’s drawn off and consumed. The problem is that the seals on those filters can (and have) leaked, allowing suspect water to contaminate the supposedly-pure water in the lower container. And it’s by no means always visually obvious that such contamination has occurred. I wouldn’t use a Berkey water filter on a bet. If you already own one, I’d strongly suggest selling it on eBay and buying a Sawyer PointZeroTwo, which is half the price of the Berkey and uses a hose from the source container to the destination container, making it obvious if suspect water is leaking into the destination container. The Sawyer also has immensely longer filter life than the Berkey, whose replacement filters are very expensive. One thing: if you buy the Sawyer, consider keeping it in its original package until you need it. The Sawyer filters aren’t affected by freezing until you run water through them. At that point, allowing the filter to freeze will destroy it.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

11:24 – Barbara left about dawn for Winston. She’s running errands, picking up some more stuff from the old house, having lunch with a friend, and then heading back up here. She should get back mid-afternoon.

I was surprised that there’s not a metal or concrete pipe sticking up out of our septic tank field. I spent some time on the phone this morning, and the consensus among the people I spoke with is that pretty much nobody has such a clean-out port on their septic tanks. They don’t require periodic pumping out, and when they do need it you have to dig up the system to clean/repair it. No one seems concerned about that. Lori, our mail carrier, says she’s lived in the same place since 1993 and their septic tank has never given them a bit of trouble. Paula, our realtor, said the same thing. She recommended putting Rid-X down the toilet periodically. Some people swear by Rid-X and others swear at it, but there doesn’t appear to be much difference in experiences by people who use it and those who don’t. The major issue appears to be what you put into the septic tank. Human waste and toilet paper is all a septic tank intended to process. Apparently, if you put fat, oils, and grease down the sink, you can expect severe problems to occur frequently. So we’re dumping all excess fats in the trash, and even wiping out fry pans with paper towels to minimize the amount of FOGs going into the septic tank.

Until I used a notebook screen, I didn’t realize just how useful my 24″ 1080P monitor is. If I build (or, more likely, buy) a replacement desktop system, I’ll probably check into driving multiple monitors with it. Frankly, I don’t see what use that would be. I work focused on one thing at a time. I do hardly any video editing, or other tasks that benefit from having two displays.

As it turns out, although we have the Sparta zipcode, our new house isn’t actually in Sparta. We’re a couple miles outside the town limits, in an unincorporated community called Glade Valley. According to Wikipedia:

Glade Valley’s Zip Code Tabulation Area (Zip Code 28627) has a population of 1,405 as of the 2000 census. The population is 49.5% male and 50.5% female. About 96.4% of the population is white, 0.7% African-American, 0.5% American Indian, 0.3% Asian, 2.6% Hispanic, and 1.5% of some other race. 0.6% of people are two or more races. There are no native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders.

The median household income is $29,679 with 17.8% of the population living below the poverty line.

We still have a ton of work left to do to get things organized, particularly the science kit stuff. Barbara has graciously agreed to let me have my desk upstairs so that I don’t have to run up and down the stairs constantly. We’ll probably put my desk in the master bedroom, which already has Barbara’s desk in it. I need room for a tower PC, two laser printers, and a scanner, and I’ve promised her that I won’t let my desk area become dirty or cluttered. Alternatively, we may convert the large walk-in closet off the foyer into my office. That would the advantage of letting me work without disturbing Barbara. Also, that closet has two full-width doors, which allow it to be closed off and out of sight.

As far as science kit components, we’ve decided to store as many of them as possible in the garage. It’s not heated or cooled, so we’re limited to storing bulk items that aren’t temperature sensitive there. Stuff like cases of goggle, beakers, Petri dishes, and so on. The temperature-sensitive stuff–finished kits, bottled chemicals, etc.–will be stored in the unfinished basement area and the laundry room upstairs. Right now, we’re living on finished goods inventory because I don’t have what we need to build more kits. Either that, or it’s stuff that’s still packed away in boxes and bins. Getting that situation resolved is a high priority.

We’ll also set up in the basement unfinished area to do potentially messy stuff like filling bottles. Non-messy stuff like labeling bottles will take place in the finished den area downstairs, where Barbara can sit and watch TV as she labels bottles or whatever.

I’m reasonably content with our emergency preparations at this point. We have literally a ton of food, although much of is still packed away or in areas where it won’t ultimately reside. We have a reasonable supply of bottled water, and the means to purify more if we need it. We have what we need to stay warm if the power fails. We have basic comms and emergency lighting and the ability to recharge AA and AAA cells via solar. We’re not completely prepared, but where we are is good enough for now.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

12:02 – We’re gradually getting things organized and items checked off on our to-do list. I spent almost three hours yesterday dealing with Obamacare. I hope that man dies a horrible, painful, long death.

Our network is working fine, using a combination of WiFi and powerline Ethernet adapters. I just ordered another pair of those, preparing to move my desk/office upstairs. It’s just too inconvenient to be running up and down the stairs every time I need to work on my computer. For now, that computer is my Dell notebook, now running Linux. That’s yet another project for later, replacing Windows with Linux Mint on Barbara’s identical Dell notebook.

Other than considerable rain yesterday and heavy winds, the weather up here has been gorgeous. That probably won’t last much longer. The average high in December is 41 or 42F (5C), and the average low is about 14F (-10C). I did notice yesterday while it was raining heavily that our deck is not waterproof. The area underneath was soaked. That means we’ll need to cover our woodpile, once I get a steel tube rack set up and a cord or two of wood delivered.

Our USPS situation has changed. In Winston-Salem, we had a great carrier, Kevin, who generally picked up around 4:00 p.m. In Sparta, we now have a great carrier, Lori, who picks up around 9:00 or 9:30 a.m. The major implication is that we’ll now be shipping most kit orders the following day rather than the same day they’re placed. Except that Lori is a real sweetheart, and she mentioned yesterday morning that she generally comes back past our house in the afternoon. She’s already agreed to watch for a blaze pink flag on our front door that indicates we have kits waiting to be picked up, so I may be able to arrange for a routine afternoon pickup.

Time for me to head upstairs, take a shower, and then get back to getting things where they need to be.

Monday, 14 December 2015

10:37 – Yesterday, for only the second or third time since I started keeping this journal about 20 years ago, I forgot to post an entry. We have so much going on here that it just slipped my mind. We still have boxes and bins stacked all over the place, and a lot of sorting/organizing left to do.

One of my concerns about this new place is the water supply. We have a well, which is fine as long as we have electricity to power the pump. Without electricity, we’d need to depend on rainwater harvesting. Fortunately, that doesn’t look like it’d be much of a problem. We have about 2,000 square feet of roof space. The downspouts connect to tubing that carries the rainwater off to the perimeter of the property, but it’d be easy enough to intercept it and capture it. All we’d need then to have a decent supply of potable water is a pre-filter, which I have all the components for, and the Sawyer PointZeroTwo filter, which I can get setup quickly. Sparta averages about four inches of rain a month, generally pretty well distributed over the month, which translates to about 5,000 gallons a month if we capture all of it. That’s 150+ gallons per day, which is sufficient even for bathing, laundry, and flushing toilets.

So, at this point, if necessary we can be completely self-sufficient. We can eat, drink, stay warm, and defend ourselves for months, and we have enough spare to provide for family and a few friends for at least a few months. We’re living in a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a good way from the big cities. That’s about as good as it gets on the East Coast. I’ll never be completely satisfied with our level of preparation, but at least we’re now at a comfortable level.

As I’ve said over and over, I don’t really expect things to go completely to shit, at least not for years, but I’ve been wrong before. And if TS does HTF, we’re at least in a position to ride it out. What I do expect is a continuing slide into dystopia, and as that happens we’ll have time to make further preparations.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

08:21 – We’re having a real warm spell in Sparta. It’s to be 68F (20C) today and tonight the low is only 50F (10C). The warm spell is to last through this coming Friday, when it’ll be back to highs in the 30’s and lows in the 20’s.

We were watching Endeavor last night and they had a parade celebrating something or other. One of the characters commented that Britain had never been invaded. Actually, Britain is invaded and conquered about every thousand years, like clockwork. A thousand years ago, the Normans did it, and a thousand years before that, the Romans. And that doesn’t even count the Anglo-Saxon invasion from about 500 to 700. Britain is just about due, and sure enough it’s being invaded right now by moslem hordes. There may not always be an England.

I’m rejiggering our network today, so I may not be responding to comments here for a while. The powerline networking stuff came in yesterday and I’m looking forward to getting it set up.

Friday, 11 December 2015

08:06 – It’s been a while since my last weekly prepping post. That’s not because we haven’t been doing anything all that time. It’s because that’s all we’ve been doing, preparing to relocate and relocating.

We’ll still be making a bunch of trips down to Winston-Salem to haul up stuff that the movers didn’t move for us and to get the old house ready to go on the market next spring, but at this point we’re officially relocated to a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

We’re in reasonably good shape in terms of food for Barbara, Colin, and me: something like 18 months’ worth. I’ll expand that gradually by adding bulk staples–flour, sugar, salt, oil, etc.–to give us enough to feed family and friends as well. We’ll package that stuff ourselves in gallon foil-laminate Mylar bags. At five to seven pounds per bag, I have enough 7-mil bags and oxygen absorbers on hand to pack about three quarters of a ton of dry staples.

Here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • We relocated from Winston-Salem, NC (population about 250,000) to Sparta, NC (population about 2,000).
  • We bought a wood stove and had it installed as a backup to our heat pump. We’ll get some fresh wood delivered as soon as I have time to get one of those steel tubing firewood racks installed under the deck, but in the interim we do have a cord or so of wood sitting in a pile along the back fence. It’s damp and rotting, but it’ll burn in an emergency.

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

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