Wednesday, 30 November 2016

10:26 – I’m closing the month. Barring any orders that come in today, we’ve done about 80% of the revenue that we did last November. I’m not too concerned. Sales by month year-on-year bounce up and down. One month, we may do 60% of the prior year’s revenue. The next month, we may do 150%. Unless we have a monster December, we’ll finish 2017 behind 2016 revenues, but not hugely so.

It’s been warm and wet. It was 57F (~14C) when I took Colin out this morning, and that’ll probably be our high for the day. There’s a cold front moving in and we’ll be returning to seasonal temperatures, with cool days and nighttime lows near or below freezing. Fortunately, we’re getting our rain out of the way while it was still warm. From Monday night through this morning we had about 2.6 inches (6.6 cm) of rain, with maybe another inch forecast for this afternoon and evening before things clear up. This rain was badly needed, not just because the whole area was getting very dry, but to help put out the wildfires that have been ravaging several states in the Appalachians. The closest they’ve gotten to us is 30 miles or so, so the only effects we’ve seen have been smoke and haze. Our house sits in the middle of large cleared fields with not many trees nearby, so we should be safe from wildfires generally.

But it’s still a relief for the whole area to get three inches (7.6 cm) or so of rainfall. That’s most of a month’s worth of rain in a couple of days, and will go a long way toward extinguishing the wildfires to our south and west. Unfortunately, the rains came a bit too late to save many mountain communities, including Gatlinburg, TN, which is just over the NC border. Our thoughts are with the Gatlinburg residents, who had to evacuate on zero notice. Three dead and hundreds of homes destroyed. It must have been a shock for Gatlinburg residents. One moment, everything was normal. The next moment, cops were knocking on their doors, telling them to evacuate immediately. Obviously, people who had a grab-and-go bag packed and ready to go were the fortunate ones. Many people lost everything.

We did make peanut butter fudge yesterday, and it turned out pretty well. Barbara isn’t a big fan of fudge, but she tried it and said it was good. The recipe reminded me of Calvin & Hobbes’ chocolate-coated sugar bombs: combine a stick of butter and half a cup of milk or half-and-half in a medium size saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and add 2.25 cups (16-7/8 ounces or 480 grams) of brown sugar. Stir and bring back to a rolling boil. Boil for two minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in 3/4 cup (7-1/8 ounces or 203 grams) of peanut butter and one teaspoon of vanilla extract and blend thoroughly. Pour over 3-1/2 cups (14 ounces or 397 grams) of powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth, and pour into an 8×8″ baking dish. Chill until firm and cut into squares.

I got email yesterday from a guy who’s facing a problem that many preppers encounter and asked for advice. Most preppers’ spouses think they’re at least slightly nuts, but sometimes it goes further than that. Some spouses are so affected by normalcy bias that they are actively hostile toward taking any prepping steps. I’ve been lucky in that Barbara is pretty much on-board with prepping, and gets more so each time she reads a news headline. Things are not normal in this country. Far from it. And they seem to get worse every week.

So what’s a guy like him to do? His wife doesn’t just look at him funny or make snide remarks. She literally pitches a fit, screaming and yelling at him if he buys any long-term food or takes any other steps to prepare for bad times. She’s convinced that there’s nothing to worry about, that all of these terrorist attacks, targeted assassinations of cops, etc. etc. are just aberrations and that things are completely normal with no serious threats on the horizon.

At first, he was buying cases of canned goods and so on at Costco and stacking them on the garage shelves. He had several cases accumulated, and one day arrived home from work to find they’d all disappeared. His wife had loaded them into her vehicle and drove them down to the homeless shelter, where she donated them. She told him in no uncertain terms that she wouldn’t have him hoarding food in her house. So he replaced them and hauled them over to a friend’s house who offered to store them in his basement. Now he’s afraid that his wife is going to start checking their credit card statements and freak out if she sees big Costco charges.

He asked if I had any advice, and about the only thing I could suggest is that he tell his wife that he’s going to continue stocking up whether she likes it or not. I think he’s afraid that she’ll divorce him, literally. I told him that many of my readers/commenters were in similar situations, if not quite as extreme and that I’d ask all of you for your advice to him.

I’m thankful every day that Barbara is reasonable about prepping. She thinks I go overboard, particularly in terms of the quantities of food we’re putting up for LTS, but she goes along with it anyway. As I’ve told her, I don’t really expect anything catastrophic to happen but there is a small but significant chance of a real disaster, maybe 3% per year, and that adds up to a scarily high chance of something really bad happening over the next five or ten years.

I don’t know what I’d do if I were in this guy’s shoes.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

10:09 – Things are pretty quiet around here. Barbara is finishing up her Christmas decorations today, and we’ll probably bake cookies. I’d also like to try making up some peanut butter fudge.

It’s a good day to stay inside. It’s gone from cool, breezy, and dry to warm, breezy, and wet. We had more than an inch (2.5 cm) of rain overnight, with another couple of inches expected today and tomorrow. It’s just lucky that our temperatures have gone up 20F or so, or this might have been a real mess.

Barbara said yesterday that we’d had only 0.03 inches of rain from early October until now. That affects my water planning. Until now, I’d though that our rainfall was very evenly distributed throughout the year, with roughly one inch per week, usually in two or three weekly rains. Going almost two months with almost no rain means we can’t depend on rainwater capture, at least unless we have a lot more storage.

We’ve been doing a fair amount of baking-powder baking, and our only can of baking powder is almost empty. Barbara is going to pick up another can from the store today, and I just put in a Walmart order that included four cans of baking powder as well as half a dozen cans of Augason potato shreds and three pounds of Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder.

We still have a 250 pounds of macaroni to repackage for LTS. It’s the Walmart house-brand macaroni, and it’s smaller than some brands. I discovered experimentally yesterday that it can in fact be funneled into 2-liter bottles. It’s basically free-flowing, which surprised me given its shape. I figured it’d logjam almost instantly in the stem of the funnel, but it didn’t. The trick is to use the cut-off top of another 2-liter bottle to make the widest possible funnel. It’s helpful to have a second person to hold the funnel and keep it aligned with the 2-liter bottle mouth, but I was actually able to do it by myself. When a jam did occur, gentle jiggling freed it easily.

Incidentally, if you order Walmart macaroni (or anything else from Walmart or Amazon particularly) be very careful about pricing. I ordered the 250 pounds of macaroni on two separate orders. The first, for 100 pounds (20 five-pound bags) was $4.48/bag. The second order, for 30 five-pound bags, was $3.17/bag. The last I checked, it was back up to $4.48/bag.

Monday, 28 November 2016

10:22 – I’ve come down with a cold, and decided to take the day off.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

10:29 – Barbara hauled a choose-and-cut Christmas tree home yesterday. We got it in the stand right after she got home, and she’s spending the day decorating it and putting out her other Christmas stuff.

After several warm days, we’re back to seasonal weather. It was 28F (-2C) when I took Colin out this morning. At least there was no wind. There was a heavy frost on the grass.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

08:47 – Rot in Hell, Fidel. Fidel Castro dead at 90. Too bad you didn’t die 90 years ago. Ah, well. At least Fidel has become a Good Commie.

Barbara is due back sometime this afternoon. She’ll have her car full of stuff, and a Christmas tree riding on top. She’s going to make a quick stop on her way home at one of the many Christmas tree places locally. The Sparta area is a major producer of Christmas trees. We’ve watched trucks loaded with literally thousands of them rolling south on US21, headed for who knows where. I suspect there are other trucks heading to all points of the compass.

I see that Jeff Bezos via the Washington Post is accusing many of the news sites I read regularly of being Russian propaganda mouthpieces who’ve all been doing their best to influence the election. Pot, meet kettle. The WP, along with the NYT, ABC/CBS/NBC/PBS/CNN/FOX and other mainstream media operations have done themselves untold damage over the course of the 2016 campaign. Before that, a significant minority of Americans disliked and mistrusted them. Now, that’s true of probably a majority of Americans. Man or woman, young or old, rich or poor, white or black, religious or not, most Americans now recognize the MSM as a propaganda organ for the progressives. Many of them approve, unfortunately, but the point is that now most understand that there’s no objectivity in the MSM. They’re making themselves increasingly useless to anyone, and among them I most definitely include FoxNews, which is no more conservative than the Democrat party or the GOP. They’re all progs, damn them to hell.

Friday, 25 November 2016

09:35 – Colin and I couldn’t find any wild women, so we (re)watched old disaster/horror movies last night.

One of those was Supervolano, on Netflix streaming. It’s a BBC production, obviously done on a small budget. The only actor I recognized was Shaun Johnston (Grandpa Jack from Heartland). The special effects were kind of cheesy at times, but that’s the only criticism I can make of the movie. Nearly all science-based films and TV series make little or no effort to get the science right. I was stunned by how accurately this film portrayed real science. No throwing around science-y words. No scientific bogosity. They actually got it right, at least as far as I could tell. I’m no vulcanologist, but I do have a pretty good layman’s understanding of geology, tectonics, and so on, and I didn’t spot any clangers. One review on explained why:

Actually… it’s pretty good science
By Ultramafic on November 1, 2008

Contrary to what one fellow reviewer avers, the science in Supervolcano is actually pretty accurate… at least that’s what the real head of the real Yellowstone Volcano Observatory says: “Scientists from USGS, Yellowstone National Park, the University of Utah and elsewhere in academia were visited by the film’s producer and writer, prior to filming. They asked us countless questions during script development, including the following: How do you monitor the volcano? What phenomena imply an eruption? Who is responsible for what tasks? What do you do in the field? Where do you stay? How do you get around? Later, we reviewed a draft script for the drama and provided them with our comments and critiques. Michael Riley, the actor playing the YVO scientist-in-charge, phoned me twice, and we had lengthy conversations about topics ranging from “my typical day” to dress code to the proper pronunciation of place names and geological jargon. In the end, the BBC Science team did an impressive job of addressing the sorts of scientific issues we would grapple with during the start of an eruption. The drama unfolds as a true scientific thriller, both gripping and fact-filled. The characters, though based only loosely on real people, had motivations and interests similar to mine and those of my colleagues. Although we strongly would have preferred portrayal of the effects of a small eruption, their intent was always to provide a worst-case scenario, and the final product did that very well.” [Jake Lowenstern, “Truth, fiction and everything in between at Yellowstone” GEOTIMES, June 2005; see […]

For those who don’t want to read this interview, I’d just add a couple notes in response to one negative review to this movie: Pyroclastic flows do not need to be going downhill to flow–in fact, they not only can flow laterally for miles, but they can flow UPHILL(that’s what killed David Johnston at Mt St Helens]; in “Supervolcano,” I don’t recall a cargo door falling off an aircraft to admit the eruption’s sulfurous fumes, but I do recall that in real instances, such fumes have got into aircraft that have flown through volcanic plumes (and, while the critic is correct that the USGS does issue volcano alerts for aircraft now, this was not always the case: the current practice was the result of pretty much exactly the experience shown in Supervolcano–although with a much smaller volcano, of course–and doubtless the example was included because most viewers are probably unaware of this danger). Anyway… the movie is good, does an excellent job explaining the science within the plot & dialogue, without seeming pedantic, and… well, it makes us wish we had Wendy Reiss in charge of FEMA.

Socialists/communists often attempts to explain their failures by blaming them on “bad luck”. To do otherwise would be to admit that their economic systems are inherently broken and dysfunctional. Like all kids of my generation, I grew up hearing the standard story of Thanksgiving, with the brave and hard-working people of the Mayflower Colony nearly starving to death because of bad luck. I never thought much about that until yesterday, when I read the real story of Thanksgiving: The Great Thanksgiving Hoax (Or How The Pilgrims Ended Socialism 400 Years Ago)

Or, as a Soviet worker commented decades ago, “They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work.” I haven’t attempted to verify the Thanksgiving Hoax story, although it shouldn’t be difficult to do. Governor Bradford’s writings are easily found. I didn’t bother, because this alternate account of events is credible. Every time that socialism or communism has been tried, it’s failed miserably. Yet another example is happening right now in Venezuela, with a large percentage of the population literally starving in what, given its oil reserves, should be one of the richest countries on the planet.

William R. Forstchen touches on this in his post-apocalyptic novel, One Second After, where the authorities consider confiscating “excess” food and supplies from prepper families and farms. The protagonist correctly points out that nothing good will come of this, and that they’re better off co-operating and encouraging voluntary free trade to optimize their supply situation.

The free market is the best and most efficient economic system that’s ever been devised, and that’s true whether conditions are normal or a catastrophic emergency had occurred. Let’s hope that if such an emergency does occur, wiser heads will prevail. I suspect that would be the case in some areas, but by no means all.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

09:49 – Barbara just left to drive down to Winston, where she’s spending Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday with Frances and Al. They’ll do a few errands Saturday, and then she’s heading back. As usual, it’ll be wild women and parties for Colin and me.

They’re going to the Greensboro craft fair tomorrow. Since they’ll be out in a crowd, I suggested she put a gub in her purse. Better to have a gub and not need one than need a gub and not have one.

I got a lot of items checked off my prepping list this month. We’ve added close to one person-year of LTS food (250 pounds of macaroni, 80 pounds of beans, 2.5 gallons of vegetable oil, and other miscellaneous stuff that totals about 730,000 calories, or about 2,000 cal/day for a year). I also added a pressure canner, four dozen more wide-mouth quart canning jars, and some reusable lids. The new gas cooktop has arrived, and we’re scheduled to get a 250-gallon propane tank installed on December 9th. I called an electrician to come out and get a cut-over switch installed for our generator and install a propane adapter kit on it. I have the beginnings of a small solar power system, with four 100W panels and a charge controller. More to do there. I’ve boosted our antibiotic stocks, with half a dozen to five dozen courses each of doxycycline, SMZ/TMP, metronidazole, levofloxacin, and amoxiclav. And various other miscellaneous stuff.

As I keep saying, it’s not that I expect anything catastrophic to happen, although that remains a real possibility and one that I want to be prepared for as well as realistically possible. What I really expect is for things to continue getting gradually worse. I don’t think there’s any way to turn that around at this point. Basically, I think we’re in the calm before the storm. I have no idea when that storm will occur or what form it will take. It may be five years coming, or ten. Or it may occur tomorrow. But it will occur at some point.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

09:36 – Barbara said Bonnie had a great time yesterday on their trip up to Galax. Bonnie spent a couple of hours driving the scooter around the Walmart aisles, shopping for food, clothing, and household items. Just getting out of the house was a treat for Bonnie. Barbara said they could do it again after Christmas.

Barbara is off to the gym this morning and then to the Friends of the Library bookstore to volunteer this afternoon. Tomorrow morning, she’s driving down to Winston to spend Thanksgiving with Frances and Al. They’re going to the craft show in Greensboro on Friday, doing a couple things Saturday morning, and then she’ll head back here. That means two full days of wild women and parties for Colin and me. We have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches planned for our Thanksgiving feast.

The Lowe’s delivery truck showed up yesterday afternoon with our gas cooktop. It’s currently sitting in our foyer bathroom, awaiting Blue Ridge Co-op to install the propane tank and piping on December 9th. Once it’s all installed, we’ll be able to cook off-grid for a year or two if worse comes to worst. Barbara is looking forward to cooking with gas again. She did that until she went away to college, and has been using an electric cooktop ever since.

I see that Trump has a lot of conservatives worried because of his back-pedaling on promises he made during the campaign, such as exporting only illegal aliens who have committed serious crimes rather than exporting all of them and building a wall. I’m not too worried about it. What Trump says varies from moment to moment according to his audience. What he actually does won’t necessarily bear any relation to what he says he’s going to do. My take on Trump is that he’ll probably turn out to be a pretty decent President, far better than Obama, Bush, or Clinton were. No one is going to get everything they want, but on balance I think Trump will satisfy most conservatives and libertarians. They may get only 50% of what they wanted, but that’s far more than they’d have gotten under a new Clinton administration. There’ll be a lot of bitching and moaning from all sides, but overall he should be at least okay if not better than okay.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

09:43 – Barbara picked up Bonnie, our next-door neighbor, at 9:00 to drive her up to the Walmart Super Center in Galax, Virginia. Bonnie is almost 90 years old and doesn’t get out much, so this will be a real treat for her.

About two minutes after Barbara left, Lori pulled in the drive to deliver/pick-up the mail. Lori’s daughter is home from college for the week. Lori said she’d finished repackaging the current batch of LTS food, and volunteered that she loved watching the oxygen absorbers dent in the 2-liter bottles. I’m not the only one who takes pleasure in small things.

The Lowe’s delivery truck is supposed to show up today with our gas cooktop. Eric with the Blue Ridge Co-op called yesterday afternoon to schedule installation of the propane tank and connecting the cooktop. They’re kind of backed up this time of year. He said the next date they had available was the morning of December 9th, so we grabbed it. It looks like we’ll be cooking dinner that day on the gas cooktop.

I did look around for a gas oven, but the only ones I could find that could operate without electricity were commercial models that cost several thousand dollars. There’s no way we’re spending that much. If we do have a long-term power failure, we can use the gas cooktop for baking by using a Coleman Camp Oven or a large Dutch oven.

Barbara took Colin to the vet yesterday to have him looked at. One of his ears was bothering him, and he’d torn a claw on one of his rear paws. A week or so ago, we’d tried cleaning out his ear with dilute vinegar and cotton balls, but it was still bothering him, so we decided to take him to the vet. Their charges are extremely low: $12 for the office visit and another $12 to swab out his ear and do a microscopic stain/exam. The medication they provided was $38, so Barbara got out of there for just over $60. Down in Winston, it would probably have been $250 or $300.

While Barbara was gone, UPS delivered four cases of quart wide-mouth canning jars. When she returned and noticed them stacked up in the foyer, she asked what they were. I told her “another four dozen quart wide-mouth canning jars,” and she said there was no way she was going to be canning food. I didn’t tell her that I’d renamed our new 23-quart pressure canner “Ma Kettle”. To be fair, I also renamed our 9-quart cast-iron camping Dutch oven “Pa Kettle”.

Monday, 21 November 2016

10:05 – Chilly weather continues. When I took Colin out and got the paper this morning, it was 26F (-3C) with strong gusty winds. As usual, after he peed Colin started mole hunting, pouncing when he smelled or heard something and sticking his snout down into the turf.

We don’t overlook long-term food storage for Colin. If things get bad, he’ll eat dog food until he runs out of it, and then start eating what we eat. We store his dog food in a large airtight plastic bin that keeps it good for several months, but there there are the dog biscuits, which come in a cardboard box. Barbara just opened a new box of those and transferred them to a bunch of Costco nut jars, carefully supervised by Colin the whole time.

I understand that the federal government has us at an elevated threat level under NTAS. They’ve warned that ISIS may plan widespread “lone wolf” attacks over the Thanksgiving holiday. The only specific target I’ve seen mentioned is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which may be targeted by terrorists driving trucks into crowds, but of course this could happen anywhere that crowds gather. Of course, they may also use guns and bombs per their usual.

I’m not expecting terrorist attacks to be widespread, but I’d be surprised if there weren’t at least one or two. Stay away from crowds.