Saturday, 27 February 2016

10:31 – Our Internet service is back to normal. Apparently, the gremlins just went away. I’m now getting normal throughput on my notebook sitting on the dining room table, whereas I was getting 0.1/0.1 Mbps down/up the other day. No changes to anything. It just started working again. I hate that.

Barbara did a quick Costco run yesterday before she headed back up to Sparta. I’d asked her to pick up another case of toilet paper, which she did, but she also picked up another case of paper towels. She’d also stopped at BB&B, where she picked up various stuff for the house, including some small kitchen items like a whisk and a set of biscuit cutters.

I re-read Ted Koppel’s Lights Out last night. It’s a short book, and well worth reading if you haven’t already. One of the points that Koppel makes in passing is the differing levels of preparedness of different areas. Urban residents typically keep very little food on hand. If they’re underclass, they probably keep about a day or two worth on hand. Even if they’re middle-class or better, they probably keep little shelf-stable food on hand because they mostly eat out, eat only fresh foods, or cook microwave meals. Suburban residents are typically better stocked, which corresponds with my own experience. A typical suburban home probably has at least a week or two worth of food on hand, and many have more. Costco and Sam’s Club shopping has encouraged that trend. Suburban homes have more storage than urban apartments, and lots of suburbanites stock up during monthly Costco/Sam’s runs. Rural dwellers are typically even better prepared. I’d guess that the typical home in Sparta has at least a month worth of food on hand, and many/most probably have more. And that’s just regular people. Those who would class themselves as preppers–and there are probably a lot more preppers in this area than in a typical suburban area–have a lot more. It’s ironic that the closer one lives to food-producing areas, the more likely one is to have a lot of food stored. That’s probably because rural residents are on average a lot more conscious of the need to be prepared and a lot less likely to count on the government to do anything to help them during an emergency.

Barbara just got the electric co-op newsletter, which announced that our electric rates would be reduced by about 1.8 cents/KWh. Last month, we used 1,723 KWh at about 10.2 cents/KWh, so our electric bill should be going down by roughly 18% for the rest of this year, a result of cheap natural gas. Yet another example of why low oil/gas prices are a huge benefit across the US.

Living in an all-electric house, I’m well aware of the dangers of a grid-down scenario. That’s why one of the first things we did when we moved in was install a wood stove large enough to heat our home and, if necessary cook on. That means my main concern about electricity at this point is that we have a well for water, so we need to be able to power the well pump if the grid goes down. As a stop-gap measure, we have a generator large enough to power the well pump. We also have a gas station with probably 40,000 gallons of gasoline about 100 yards from our house. But our next major acquisition will probably be a solar installation sufficient to power that well pump for at least 10 or 15 minutes a day. With a flow rate of 5 to 6 gallons per minute, that’d give us 50 to 90 gallons of water a day, which we could live with. We could probably manage that with one or two 100W panels and the associated electronics and deep cycle batteries.