Month: June 2016

Thursday, 30 June 2016

08:24 – More filling and labeling of bottles today. Barbara is leaving after dinner to drive down to Winston and spend the night at her sister’s house because she has an early doctor appointment tomorrow. Wild women and parties for Colin and me tonight.

I always walk Colin down around back in the morning, because he likes to see the cows. This morning, there were two young calves off by themselves not far from the fence. Instead of ambling away from the Fearsome Predator, they actually started to approach us. Colin watched them slowly approach, looking at him the entire time, until they got about 20 feet (6 meters) away. Then he couldn’t take it any more, so he did one of his bounce growls to let them know that he was cowiverous. They immediately fled toward the adult cows standing a couple hundred yards/meters away. I’m sure they’ll be telling the other calves about their narrow escape.

I’ve invited two of my most frequent commenters to join this blog as guest contributers. OFD has accepted. I haven’t heard back from Nick yet. I figured that since they were posting a lot of long comments, which Google doesn’t index, it’d make more sense for them to post that information as articles rather than comments. Legally, nothing changes. Just as before, each retains the copyright to his own words, and each grants me nonexclusive permission to reproduce those words. I hope Nick decides to come on board as well. He already posts as much or more text each day as I do, and it’s a shame to have it buried in the comments where it’s difficult to find and doesn’t turn up on a Google search.

I’m placing no constraints on either of them, other than not posting anything that would piss off Dreamhost enough to have them suspend my account. They’re free to post prepping-related information, links to other sites, personal stuff, and so on.

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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

09:19 – I was reading one of those panicky articles yesterday that claimed there are too many guns in private hands in the US. More than 200 million, it said. My best guess would be higher: between half a billion and a billion. Then I saw this article, which says that 23 million background checks were done in 2015. That doesn’t cover all gun sales, such as private sales between individuals, but it probably covers most sales of new guns. On the other hand, you can’t equate background checks to unit sales. Multiple guns can be and are purchased from one background check. For example, the last time I bought a gun, they ran one background check on me and one on Barbara, and those two background checks covered one shotgun and one rifle for each of us. (Those four guns were later lost when they fell over the side of a boat into a very deep lake, but that’s another story.) I know people who have bought 20 or more guns on one background check, so my guess is that the 23 million background checks done in 2015 accounted for at least 25 million new guns, if not 30 million. Of course, most of those have since been lost in deep water, just like the ones we bought.

Another article I read some months ago claimed that there were a million AR-15 platform rifles in private hands in the US. I almost choked on my tea when I read that one. My best guess is that the real total is about 10 times that. In other words, there are more semi-auto “black rifles” in private hands in the US than there are AR-15 platform rifles in not just the US armed forces, but in all of the world’s military forces combined. Of course, nearly all of those black rifles in private hands have also been lost in deep water. In fact, I’d guess that all of the deep rivers and lakes in the US have their bottoms covered with a nearly solid layer of firearms.

I also read an article about how gun confiscation might be handled. It concluded that there weren’t enough federal employees to get the job done. Not even close. So it’d have to be done by state and local LE personnel. Yeah, right. That’s a non-starter, particularly in rural areas. I can just see the Alleghany County Sheriff and the Sparta Chief of Police being ordered to go around and confiscate everyone’s firearms. If I were they, my first reaction would be, “Are you nucking futs?” In the first place, most LEO’s outside urban areas are gun owners and sporting shooters/hunters themselves. Their sympathies are very like to be with other gun owners like themselves rather than with faceless federal bureaucrats. In the second place, and far more importantly, any rural LEO understands that trying to confiscate people’s guns would decrease his own life expectancy. Sure, a high percentage of civilians would voluntarily hand over their weapons–those that hadn’t been lost in deep water–but enough wouldn’t that the local cops would find themselves working every day in what amounted to a war zone.

So no matter who’s elected in November, I’m not too worried about widespread gun confiscation.

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Tuesday, 28 June 2016

11:38 – Barbara left early to drive down to Winston, where she’s running errands and meeting friends for lunch.

One of things I like about this area is the reliable rainfall. We’re not quite literally in a temperate rainforest, but almost. The usual definition is at least 55 inches (140 cm) of rain annually, with no dry season and moderate temperatures. Sparta averages 52 inches (132 cm) of rain annually, but otherwise fits the definition. The rainfall is also pretty evenly distributed, with an average of two days per week with measurable precipitation, averaging about 0.5 inches (1.27 cm) each. When we were looking at homes in next-door Ashe County, I asked our realtor about droughts. His response was that they’d had a dry spell ten years or so ago, but shortage of water wasn’t generally much of a problem there. If anything, the converse.

We had 2 inches (5 cm) of rain yesterday, bringing us up close to 30 inches year-to-date. Our electronic rain gauge says we’ve had only 21.52 inches YTD, but relative to our physical rain gauge it reports only 70% to 75% of what we actually get. So, while much of western North Carolina is in abnormally dry to severe drought conditions, those of us in the Blue Ridge up near the Virginia border are doing fine, as usual.

What that means in terms of prepping is that I’m comfortable with 30 days’ worth of stored water. Even if we couldn’t get water from our well, we’d be fine until the next rain came along.

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Monday, 27 June 2016

10:38 – Barbara is off to the gym and supermarket. We have two of those in Sparta: Lowe’s where she always shops, and Food Lion, which she generally avoids. Lowe’s has a middle-class and higher customer base, while Food Lion has mostly poor and lower middle-class customers. But there are a few things that our small local Lowe’s doesn’t carry that Barbara wants, so she’s going to do a look through there just to see what they carry.

While she’s there, she’s going to pick up a bag or two of baby Lima beans for me. Someone emailed me the other day to ask if she could plant stuff she bought at the supermarket, because it’s much cheaper than ordering seeds. The answer is yes and no. There are two issues to consider. First, is the supermarket seed (she asked specifically about dry beans) a hybrid or open-pollinated. If the former, it won’t breed true, although that may not matter because it may still produce usable plants, albeit with significant differences from plant to plant. The second issue is how the seeds were dried before packaging. Seeds are living things, and heat much higher than body temperature will kill some or all of them, depending on the temperature and length of treatment. When I dry seeds, I don’t use temperatures higher than 85F (~30C). In other words, like a warm day. The risk with using a commercial food dehydrator is that even the lowest temperature setting may be too hot for the seeds’ well-being.

I told her that most beans and legumes sold in grocery stores are open-pollinated, simply because they work fine as is and it would be too labor-intensive and expensive to produce hybrid seeds for planting. I’ll plant a few of supermarket baby limas in planting trays just to see how they do.

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Sunday, 26 June 2016

11:41 – Frances, Al, and their mutual friend Marcie made a day trip up here yesterday. Colin enjoyed himself immensely, as he always does when we have visitors.

As it turns out, Barbara’s friend Marcie is a prepper, or at least recognizes that it’s prudent to be prepared for whatever happens. She’s very concerned about how things are going in this country. She’s also concerned about the fragility of the power grid and transportation network, increasing civil unrest, and so on.

Marcie brought the subject up herself when the two of us were standing out on the front porch talking. She’s a smart woman, so her first hint was probably when she came into the kitchen and saw a 26-pound pail of Augason Farms brown rice sitting on the island. It was Marcie’s first visit here, so of course Barbara showed her around the house, including one of the downstairs bedrooms that’s full of long-term storage food: cans and bottles from Costco/Sam’s, #10 cans from the LDS Home Storage Center, and stuff we’ve repackaged ourselves into PET bottles. Barbara mentioned this morning that she suspected Marcie would be making a trip over to the LDS HSC near the Greensboro airport to load up her SUV. I’ll get Marcie’s email address from Barbara and offer to advise her if she needs help deciding what to do.

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Saturday, 25 June 2016

13:26 – Barbara has some friends up from Winston on a day trip. They plan to have a late lunch in Sparta and then walk around downtown.

It appears that one of our neighbors must have bought a new vehicle. We were sitting in the den after dinner yesterday when I happened to look out the front window as a horse-drawn buckboard drove up the road. That’s the first time I’ve seen that. It makes a change from the usual pickups, SUVs, and heavy trucks that roll up and down our road pretty much all day long.

Which reminded me of how dependent even rural Sparta is on shipments from outside the area. On an average day, I might see dozens of loaded tractor-trailers heading up US21 toward Sparta. Everything from UPS and FedEx trailers to beer and softdrink trailers to Lowe’s supermarket and Walgreens drugstore trailers. Because of the nature of rural living, people up here tend to maintain much deeper pantries than people in urban areas. Rather than keeping an average of three days’ food on hand, I’d guess people up here probably average ten times that much or more. Even so, the fragility of the transportation network and just-in-time inventory systems concerns me greatly. If those tractor trailers ever stopped arriving–and there are numerous interrelated dependencies in that system that might cause that to happen–this area wouldn’t starve, but the consequences would nevertheless be very unpleasant.

Speaking of deep pantries, the FedEx guy just showed up with the 26-pound pail of Augason Farms brown rice. When he opened the door of his van, he announced that he had a whole lot of rice for us, which he knew because he could read the label on the pail through the finger slots in the box.

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Friday, 24 June 2016

09:35 – Good news overnight. The UK has voted to leave the EU, and that prog POS Cameron has announced his resignation. Apparently, Boris Johnson is likely to become leader of the Tories and probably the next PM. It would be more fitting if Nigel Farage became PM. He is, after all, the leader of the UK Independence Party.

I have a modest proposal. I think we should rename the North American Free Trade Agreement to the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, eject Mexico (which is in Central America anyway), and invite the UK to join the new NAFTA. Eventually, we could invite Denmark and Holland, most of whose citizens speak English anyway, and of course Australia and New Zealand. But the UK is most important. As Europe continues being muslimized, the day may come when we again need the UK as an unsinkable aircraft carrier.

I didn’t do much prepping this week, other than ordering half a dozen boxes of Krusteaz cinnamon crumb cake and a pail of Augason Farms brown rice from Walmart. I note that the Krusteaz product has gone up from $2.14/box to $2.25. Eleven cents may not seem like much, but it’s more than 5%. At least that’s not as bad as the Augason powdered eggs. The last time I bought them, they were $17/can. They got up over $50 last year, but are now down to $34.50, only twice what I paid.

More science kit stuff today, of course.

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Thursday, 23 June 2016

08:42 – Filling and labeling more containers today. We’re getting to the point where we have enough of everything to start putting together chemical bags for the science kits 20 to 40 sets at a time. Right now, Barbara is baking a Krusteaz cinnamon crumb cake while she shreds newspaper, which we use to pad the contents of kits. I just loaded and ran the dishwasher, started a load of laundry, and transferred two 4-pound boxes of iodized table salt to recycled Mason jars from Bertolli spaghetti and alfredo sauces.

The garden is coming along well. Nothing has been munching on it, as far as I can tell.

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Wednesday, 22 June 2016

09:33 – We got several hundred containers filled and labeled yesterday. More of the same the rest of this week. And another 3,000 bottles and caps showed up yesterday, just in time.

We’re getting a bit concerned about Colin. He turned five in February, which makes him a young middle-aged dog. We’re playing a lot of frisbee with him, and I noticed the other day that he was sometimes running with his back feet together. That may be just the way he chose to run that time, but it may also indicate hip problems, which Border Collies are prone to. The other night when I took him out last time to pee, instead of lifting his leg on the well casing as usual, he squatted like a girl dog. It may be nothing, or something minor like a muscle pull, but we’re going to keep an eye on him.

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Tuesday, 21 June 2016

11:36 – We’re labeling and filling more containers, mostly in batches of 120 or 150 at a time. (The labels we use come 30 to a sheet). We’ll be doing this for quite a while, as each kit contains from 25 to about 50 containers. Then we’ll go back and do it all over again until we have thousands and thousands of containers ready in preparation for the summer rush from mid-July to mid-October.

Bonnie, our 90-year-old neighbor, called Barbara yesterday evening to report that black bears had been seen in the vicinity. Bonnie was concerned about Colin. Black bears are unpredictable, certainly, but they’re also very smart. A bear puppy learns by the time it’s in kindergarten that wolves and humans are a threat, and to a bear Colin with his prick ears and stalking behavior looks very much like a wolf. Bears certainly know that humans are a deadly threat to them. Human young are tasty and easy to catch, but adult humans often have thundersticks, which are a Very Bad Thing. Sure, they’ll come in close to human homes to find food but they really don’t want to confront people. I’ve seen dozens of black bears over the last 50 years, but in nearly every case I saw only the south end of a bear running north. The closest I’ve ever come to confronting one happened 30 years or so ago, when Barbara and I were tent camping. Barbara heard a noise outside in the middle of the night. She opened the tent flap, looked out, and said it was a big dog. I put my flashlight beam on it. It was, of course, a black bear, rummaging through the 55-gallon drum that was provided at the site as a trash can. I just said “Hi, Bear” in a loud, deep voice, and it took off running. Of course, I had a heavy-caliber pistol in my hand at the time.

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