Month: February 2017

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

09:16 – It was 41F (5C) when I took Colin out this morning around 0700. It’s currently up to 52F (11C), with today’s high forecast in the mid-60’s. Tomorrow evening, a blizzard moves in, with a light dusting of snow in the forecast. Barbara is volunteering at the Friends of the Library bookstore this afternoon, but the rest of the week we’ll be working on science kit stuff.

Several comments recently about anniversaries. I’d be interested in seeing a comparison of the marriage habits of deplorables versus progs. My impression is that deplorables tend to marry when they’re 18 to 30 years old, and stay married for a long, long time, while progs tend either to not marry or to marry and then soon divorce. That’s a gross generalization, of course, but in my experience it tends to be true. Not that there aren’t deplorables who are divorced, particularly some who married young and divorced soon after. But many of those later remarried and stayed married.

Last night, Barbara mentioned a conversation with a friend whose soon-to-be-16-year-old son is giving her fits. The other night, he climbed out his bedroom window and was gone all night, out with friends. They didn’t do any really bad stuff, except they decided to go street racing. As she was telling me the tale, I thought “boys will be boys”. Turns out, the friend’s husband had exactly the same reaction. He’d done the same kind of stuff as a teenager (as had I), and he said every guy he knew had done the same kind of stuff. It’s just being a boy growing into a man, but women don’t really understand.

It’s what boys do and have done throughout history and across cultures. It’s what happens when pubescent boys are exposed for the first time to a flood of testosterone. It makes them grow faster, taller, bigger, stronger, and much more aggressive. They become young warriors, in other words. That’s a couple million years of evolution in action, and there’s nothing societal pressure can do to change their behavior.

The problem, of course, is that those changes are also responsible for the very high number of accidental deaths among teenage boys. Teenage boys feel immortal, which again is just part of preparing them for their role as young warriors. If you’re going to face a man with a sword or spear who’s intent on hacking you to pieces, you damned well better feel immortal or you’re going to turn and run. So teenage boys are programmed not to turn and run, even when that’s the rational course of action.

For the last hundred years or so, teenage boys have been proving themselves to themselves and their friends by driving like maniacs. The problem is, they really are as good as they think they are, almost. Their vision is the best it will ever be, as are their motor skills and reaction times. What they utterly lack is experience, and that’s what kills a lot of them. And it’s also why every parent of a teenage boy is terrified at the thought of them out there driving like a maniac.

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Monday, 27 February 2017

09:49 – I forgot to check the temperature when I took Colin out this morning. It’s currently 50F (10C).

I finished up the federal taxes this morning. Now to get the state taxes finished. They’re pretty straightforward. The federal 1040 and supporting forms are about 98% of the actual work. This year was worse than usual because of the move. For the first half of 2016, we owned two homes, and had the sale of a house to take into account. We also had two personal checking accounts, two corporate checking accounts, doctors and dentists both in Winston and Sparta, two different Obamacare policies, and Costco changing from AmEx to Visa. All told, it was a paperwork nightmare. But it’s done, other than state.

Fortunately, kit sales have dropped way off, which is usual sometime in February. It was just later this February than it’s been in past Februaries. And we did manage to do about 180% of kit sales revenue this month that we did in February of last year.

But the upshot is that we’re getting very low on finished goods inventory, so we need to build more of everything. Barbara built three dozen shipping boxes yesterday, and we’ll get to work today on getting those turned into finished kits.

Dinner tonight is completely from long-term storage. A skillet meal of Keystone Meats beef chunks, Bertolli alfredo sauce, canned mushroom soup, and pasta. Kind of a beef stroganoff with our own twist.

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Sunday, 26 February 2017

10:29 – It was 28F (-2C) when I took Colin out this morning. The snow never arrived, and today is sunny, breezy, and cool. Things are to warm up tomorrow and stay warmer for several days, until they start to cool down again on Thursday. Even our recent “cool” days are well above normal temperatures. I blame it on global warming. More work on taxes today. I hope to finish.

I keep reading all these news stories about how the Republicans are going to have to come up with medical insurance that covers pre-existing conditions. That’s the most popular aspect of Obamacare, and it’s popular because it’s a welfare giveaway. The simple fact is that health insurance cannot cover pre-existing conditions. If it does, by definition, it’s not insurance. It’s welfare. Even assigned risk pools are welfare, because the premia they charge are insufficient to cover expenses, which must be made up for either by having the taxpayers foot the bill or having normal customers pay more than they should.

I see all these stories about how we must continue to cover pre-existing conditions. I just read one in the paper this morning about a woman in Englewood, CO who has breast cancer and is paying $345/month for health insurance under Obamacare. She should be paying much, much more. Probably at least ten times as much, if not 20 or 50 times as much. She can’t afford that? Sorry, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us should have to pay for her care. They don’t mention if she has any assets, but if she does, those should be liquidated and go to pay for her care before any taxpayer monies or other subsidies are provided to her. Not that I think she should receive any subsidies. We’d all be better off as a group if subsidies were entirely eliminated and people had to pay their own way. I’m sorry for her trouble, but not sorry enough to pay for it myself.

Worst case, she’d simply have to do without medical care. Not that that would matter much to the outcome. With or without medical care, she’ll live about the same amount of time. Like most “modern medicine” the care she’ll be receiving with the subsidy won’t actually help her much. My attitude is that we should supply as much oxycodone (or levomethorphan) as she wants to take and let her die as nature intended.

More than 90% of medical spending in this country is similarly wasted on things that can’t be fixed, surgery that ultimately has no benefit, and drugs that have little or no benefit. If people want to waste their own money on useless medical treatments, that’s their business. But subsidizing that care is an outrageous waste of taxpayer money.

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Saturday, 25 February 2017

09:49 – It was 52F (11C) when I took Colin out this morning. It’s currently 57F, which is to be the high for today. There’s a cold front moving in, with snow arriving this evening and the low tonight well below freezing. Tomorrow is to be more of the same, with warmer weather arriving Monday. More work on taxes today.

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Friday, 24 February 2017

09:52 – It was 50F (10C) when I took Colin out this morning. Our high today is to be 68F (20C), but then a cold front comes through. The high tomorrow is supposed to be in the early morning, with snow coming in tomorrow evening. Today I’ll be working on taxes again. Barbara is at the gym this morning and volunteering for the Friends of the Library bookstore this afternoon.

There was a story in the paper yesterday about a 12-year-old girl in Winston-Salem who had died Valentine’s Day of the flu. A follow-on article this morning said the hospitals in Winston-Salem were limiting visitors to try to keep the flu from spreading.

Every time I read about flu deaths, I think about my mother’s mother. My mother was born just as WWI ended, which was a few weeks after the first cases of the Spanish Flu occurred in New Castle, PA. Pennsylvania as a whole was very badly affected by the flu, but Lawrence County was luckier than most of the state. Not that it seemed that way at the time to the people living there.

My grandmother told me what it had been like. Like most people, she was terrified, afraid to leave the house, literally. Afraid to stand on the front porch and talk to the next-door neighbors on their front porch. Afraid to touch the mail that was delivered to the box next to their front door. Afraid to use the tap water without boiling it. Afraid to walk to the grocery store across the street. Local businesses shut down, at first just the bars and restaurants and churches and other gathering places, but soon all of the businesses. Men no longer went to work because they feared bringing the contagion home with them. And through all of this, my grandmother was more than 8 months pregnant and ready to deliver her baby any time. And this amidst a pandemic disease that was selectively killing healthy people in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s.

Fortunately, it being 1918, my grandmother, like most wives at the time, both urban and rural, had a very deep pantry of dry staples, commercial canned goods, and foods she’d canned herself. They lived exclusively on those stored foods for the first weeks following the arrival of the flu. They heated with coal, and had both electricity and oil lamps for lighting, so they really didn’t need to leave the house.

They didn’t know it at the time, but the flu came in waves. Within a few weeks of the first cluster of deaths, the authorities declared an end to the emergency, which unfortunately was premature. The flu returned at least twice more, killing more people each time. Eventually, people had to leave their homes, if only because they were running short of food. When they did go out, they stayed as far as possible from other people, and they wore face masks. The fear persisted into mid-1919, when my mother was 6 or 7 months old.

When my parents were first married, they moved in with my mother’s mother, where they lived until I was two years old. I remember my grandmother’s basement, which was filled with shelves packed with dry staples, commercial canned goods, and home-canned jars of food. Which in retrospect was understandable. My grandmother had lived through WWI, followed by the Spanish flu, followed by the Great Depression, followed by WWII, followed by the threat of being nuked by the Soviets. Is it any wonder that she was what nowadays would be called a prepper? Of course, back then pretty much everyone was a prepper. They had reason to be.

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Thursday, 23 February 2017

09:37 – It was 46.5F (8C) when I took Colin out this morning. Today I’ll be working on taxes again and Barbara will be working on kit stuff.

My most recent Walmart order was supposed to arrive yesterday. The first box actually arrived Tuesday, with 12 cans of Keystone Beef Chunks and a 26.7-oz box of Walmart instant mashed potatoes I wanted to try. Interestingly, the Walmart mashed potatoes list the ingredients as essentially 100% dehydrated potatoes, with minor amounts of citric acid and other preservatives. I compared that with the Idahoan ingredients list, which was a long paragraph with lots of non-potato ingredients.

That shipment was fine, but the box that arrived yesterday had two problems. First, a big rip in the bag of Krusteaz buttermilk pancake mix had spilled enough of it to make a mess. There was probably 9.9 pounds of the nominal 10 pounds still left in the bag, so we transferred it to PET bottles.

The second issue was just annoying. I’d ordered a 29-oz #10 can of Augason Farms non-fat dry milk to try. What they actually shipped me was an 8-oz #2.5 can. This despite the fact that it explicitly said on the order confirmation and the packing list that it was a 29-oz can.

This isn’t the first time they’ve shipped a smaller container than I ordered and paid for. For example, I ordered four 10-oz cans of Rumford baking powder and they instead shipped me four 8-oz cans. I ordered a 3-pack of cannisters of Hershey’s Cocoa powder and they shipped me just one cannister. On that order, I just gave up because they made it impossible to apply for a credit. They wanted me to drive to Walmart  to return the product. This time, at least they offered to send me a return postage label so that I could have USPS pick it up. I requested a replacement rather than a refund, so we’ll see if they actually ship me the #10 can I ordered or another #2.5 can. I’m kind of expecting the latter.

Barbara always says she doesn’t understand why I keep ordering stuff from Walmart since their fulfillment and packaging sucks rocks.  My answer is that it’s because they usually get it right and Amazon prices on items I order is often 50% to literally 300% or 400% higher than Walmart charges. So I’ll keep ordering from Walmart and just put up with the occasional aggravation.

With regard to kit sales, 2017 is starting out better than 2016. As of today, we’ve matched kit unit sales and revenues through the end of March 2016.

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10:24 – It seems that the mainstream media blames Trump for everything, but I have an item that they’ve somehow overlooked to add to their list. Donald Trump is responsible for SPAM. Since his inauguration, the amount of SPAM I’m getting has at least doubled and possibly tripled or more. I check my email and empty the SPAM folder. Literally 10 minutes later, I check my email again and find another 25 or 30 messages in my SPAM folder. So, Donald Trump is obviously responsible for this increase in SPAM, and should be impeached.


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Wednesday, 22 February 2017

09:32 – It was 45F (7C) and raining when I took Colin out this morning, with no wind. Today I’ll be working on taxes again and Barbara will be working on kit stuff.

While Barbara was working at the bookstore yesterday afternoon, James stopped by to pick up a load of brush. James is about our age and lives half a mile or so down the road from us. He’s been mowing our yard since we moved up here. Like most people around here, he’s a Deplorable. He’s lived here all his life, and his ancestors have been living around here for at least 200 years, if not before the Revolution.  He’s also part of the 1.25% or so of the county population who’s black.

James loves to talk, and we stood there by the brush pile for half an hour or so talking. He’s very religious, politically and socially conservative, and hard working. In other words, a Deplorable. As we were standing there talking, a girl zoomed past in her little red car. The speed limit is 35 MPH, but as usual she was going about 60. That got us going on the “these kids today” thing.

She lives several houses down the road from James. She’s about 20 years old and has been driving like a maniac since she got her license. James has called the sheriff about her several times, but there’s apparently nothing they can do. Her grandfather set up a trust for her and the other grandchildren, from which she is now drawing $100K per year. She doesn’t have a job, and spends her time drinking, doing drugs, and driving around like a maniac. Every time she gets busted, her grandmother buys her way out of trouble. James and I agree that one day she’s going to kill someone, and that we just hope it’s herself instead of some innocent bystander.

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And here’s another guest post from Jen:

Readiness Exercises

by “Jen”

RBT said: “I’d really like to see an article or articles from Jen on planning and running a readiness exercise and talking about the issues they encountered and how they dealt with them. Jen did send me relatively short emails to report after each of their exercises, but I’d like to see a lot more detail.”

Fair enough. Here are some random thoughts based on what we’ve learned doing several weekend readiness exercises and one 10 day exercise from Christmas 2016 through New Years Day 2017.

The first thing I learned wasn’t during a formal exercise, it was when we shifted from cooking mostly with fresh and frozen foods to using lots of LTS food. My first attempt to make no-knead bread was pretty bad, the loaf was so damp that it almost dripped. Then there was the night I decided to make hamburgers from a can of Keystone ground beef. Guess what. It’s already cooked and you can’t form it into burgers. I ended up mixing it with cornmeal and making a meatloaf. There were several other similar fails and we found out pretty quickly that the lesson is to cook from your LTS food BEFORE you need to. Collect recipes that sound good and TRY them. Bob has posted several books and webpages that cover using LTS food. Buy them or download and print them. Do it NOW and then start trying them.

The next thing to think about is privacy. David and I are used to rattling around in our big house, just the two of us. The first time we had Jim, Claire and their boys for a weekend exercise it wasn’t too bad. Our house is big enough that each of the couples had a bedroom and the boys shared one. We didn’t get in each others way. When we did a larger exercise that included our prepper friends that made 12 of us in a house that was big for two, okay for six, but too small for 12, eight of which were married couples. David and I almost never argue but we had two loud “discussions” that weekend and things were also tense at times between two of the other married couples. We talked about this issue and agreed that the key was to consciously give everyone else as much “space” as possible and to think very hard before making any critical remark.

Another thing to think about is pets. We have a dog and the other prepper family that stays with us also has one. The dogs had met at cookouts and stuff where they seemed to get along, but this was the first time they’d both been in a house. Our dog considers this his territory and wasn’t happy about sharing it with a visitor. There wasn’t an actual fight thank god but there was a lot of snarling and raised hackles. The lesson here is to make sure that not only the people in your group get along but also the pets.

Heating water is expensive. We didn’t think about that because like most people it was just part of our electricity or natural gas bill. In our early weekend drills we had no way to heat water except on the woodstove or in an old Coleman solar shower bag that was part of our camping gear. That was just barely workable for washing dishes and what David calls Navy Showers (get in, turn on the water long enough to get wet, turn off the water, soap down, and turn the water back on just long enough to rinse off.) We found we could get two quick showers out of one five gallon solar bag but it had to sit for at least a couple hours in the sun to get hot enough. I’d almost rather take sponge baths with water heated on the stove.

Just before our long readiness exercise at the end of last year we got a propane tank installed and had it piped to our downstairs kitchen where we installed a propane cooktop and a 30 gallon water heater. As it turns out the cooktop and water heater both use a fair amount of propane. The biggest burner on the cooktop is 15,000 BTU, so we can run it for about six hours on a gallon of propane. That same gallon of propane will heat about 200 gallons of well water up to 110 degrees. If there is a long term catastrophe we’ll minimize propane use by turning off the water heater and limiting propane to cooking and cleanup. With careful use we probably have enough to last a year even using the water heater carefully and turning off the propane to it between runs. If things seem like they are likely to go on longer than that we can always go back to heating water with wood and taking solar showers.

Maybe the biggest thing we learned was not to make assumptions. The first time we tried to start the generator it wouldn’t start. We didn’t have any of that ether starter fluid and we never could get it started so for that session we were limited to battery lights and stored water for everything including toilet flushing. We knew we were supposed to test run the gennie once a month but that was one of those things that just kept getting put off. Now we do test run it once a month rain or shine. We also have a bunch of ether spray starter fluid just in case.

On a related issue, as it turned out we actually did have two cans of ether starter spray stored. David swore he’d bought them but we couldn’t find them anywhere. I guess the lesson here is to organize the hell out of everything. If you don’t remember you have it or if you can’t find it you might as well not have it at all. List everything you have and exactly where it is. Not just “big basement storeroom”, but “BBS Shelf E rear side towards right middle”. We’ve been working on such detailed inventory lists. We’re not perfect yet, but that’s what we’re shooting for.

One last big thing. I figured out doing drills no matter how realistic we tried to make them they weren’t even close to real. On Monday morning we’d all be going back to our regular lives. We knew we weren’t really going to be attacked by looters and that all the stuff we’d turned off for the duration would be back on again as soon as we declared the exercise was ended. We didn’t have to worry about the outside world turning nasty or what had happened to friends living in the big cities. In short the stress level was nowhere near what it would really be if SHTF. Pretending David had been badly wounded in a firefight didn’t even begin to approach the reality of that happening. During that exercise, I sat with him sometimes but I mainly just did the things I would have been doing anyway. If that really happened I’d surely be a basket case useless for anything. So if you do run an exercise keep that in mind.

Not that I think running readiness exercises is a waste of time because I don’t. I think it was Mark Twain who commented on the lack of similarity between lightning and a lightning bug. Readiness exercises are just a lightning bug. SHTF is real lightning.

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Tuesday, 21 February 2017

10:40 – It was 43F (6C) when I took Colin out this morning, with no wind. Today I’ll be working on taxes again and Barbara will be filling containers this morning and volunteering at the Friends of the Library bookstore this afternoon. She made chicken fried rice for dinner last night, all from long-term storage food.

One of the most time-consuming parts of doing taxes is figuring expenses. For most business purchases, I create a purchase order, and then have to go through every PO and total expenses in different categories. That’s not as easy as it sounds. As just one example, I may issue a PO to one of our vendors for, say, $1,500. But that doesn’t include shipping, which I find out the cost of only when I get the actual invoice from them. I then have to go back to our corporate check register and match PO#’s to checks written to verify the total. Even worse, if I paid by credit card, I have to find those transactions and update the totals for each PO.

So this year I’ve done something I swear I’ll do every year: keep a running journal/register of PO’s and update it as I actually get the final data. That should make things a lot faster when I do taxes next year.

There were several comments and emails about Jen’s guest post yesterday, all of which said they’d like to hear more from her. Meanwhile, I’d also sent emails to several other regular visitors inviting them to make guest posts as well. I got email last night from Jenny (not Jen) in Alaska accepting the offer, so I hope to see a series of posts from her starting in the near future.

If I didn’t send you email, please don’t take it as an insult. If you have something to say and want to say it here, please let me know. In sending invites, I was looking for unique viewpoints. I asked Jenny because she’s (a) prepping in Alaska at the end of a very long supply line, and (b) she’s a woman, and we don’t have many women here who do anything but lurk. I’ve not intentionally made this an old-boys club, but that’s the way it’s worked out. Having active participation by more women would be a Good Thing.

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Can You Finish Prepping?

by “Jen”

Several days ago Bob emailed me to ask if I’d be willing to post articles on this site. He’d offered before and I turned him down each time because I’m concerned about OPSEC and didn’t want to leave any kind of electronic bread crumbs back to me. He again assured me that there wasn’t much risk but I didn’t want my IP on record. I finally agreed that he could post my emails as long as he made sure to strip out any possible identifying information and that it was okay to post them as articles from me if he cleans up any misspellings or typos. I’ll keep using the fake names Bob gave us.

So onto the question that has been on my mind. Can someone ever finish prepping? Everyone says you can’t but I’m not so sure. People say that prepping is a lifestyle and a state of mind and for us that’s true. We really started prepping in late 2014 or early 2015. Before that we were only about as well prepared as most people living in rural areas. Every time David and I got together with my brother and his family we’d talk about the breakdown of law and order, black rioting, cop shootings, and all the other bad stuff that was happening more and more. There wasn’t any one moment when we all decided to start prepping, it was just something that we gradually started to do. I don’t remember how I came across Bob’s blog, but once I did I read several of his posts and then went back and read straight through the last couple of year’s worth. He seemed to have a no-nonsense approach and wasn’t trying to sell anything to preppers so I emailed him and things took off from there.

At first we just took Bob’s advice about what and how much to buy. We treated prepping as urgent at first and probably bought a lot of stuff that we might not have if we’d taken things slower. But that’s OK because by panic buying we got a good solid start very quickly. Before long we were up to a years supply of food and other essential supplies and the sense of urgency gradually disappeared. Then we started filling in the weaker areas and before long we were at a level that we were all comfortable with. We ran several weekend exercises to test our preps and get all the kinks worked out. Now we’re OK on supplies and are mostly just replacing what we use.

That’s not completely true because we’re still gradually adding stuff by the case or two so our supplies inventory continues to grow. We also talked about Bob’s idea of continuing to add cheap bulk staples to extend the time our supplies will hold us and to have extra for friends and neighbors. When Bob mentioned that Walmart had 5 pound bags of macaroni on sale for less than $2.50 each we went ahead and ordered 200 bags. Our UPS guy probably hates us more than Bob’s hates him but that order by itself increased our supply of grains by about three person years. Same thing on other cheap staples like flour, rice, sugar, and beans. We’ll keep doing that until we run out of space to stack stuff because it’s comforting to know that we can feed our group for years if there’s a really long emergency and still have extra to give away to friends and neighbors.

Once we got to a good level of food and other consumables we started focusing on other aspects. We now have a good solar power system installed, a big propane tank, and a cooktop and water heater that run on propane. We’ve made improvements to our perimeter security and hardening the house. Our communications have gone from non-existent to pretty good as has our lighting and surveillance gear. Our medical preps are in good shape. As of now we’ve pretty much finished the major purchases so from that angle we are finished prepping.

I keep a notebook and pen on my nightstand because I still wake up some nights when I think about something we still need to do or learn or buy but overall we’re in great shape. We’re all aware that prepping at any level can’t guarantee anything. All it can do is give us a better chance and we’re all comfortable that we’ve done as much as we can and that’s all anyone can do. Many people would probably think we’re doomsday preppers but that’s not how we see it. We’ve simply made minor changes to our lifestyle to help prepare us for bad times. If that makes us crazy preppers in some people’s view that’s OK with us.

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Monday, 20 February 2017

08:51 – It was 39F (4C) when I took Colin out this morning, but with no wind. Today I’ll be working on taxes and Barbara will be filling containers.

There’s been a lot of email back-and-forth between Cassie and me about canning meat. She’s decided to go full-speed ahead with it, but I’m still not convinced it makes sense. It’s perfectly safe, assuming one follows official instructions to the letter, but what I question is the cost of canning meat. When you add up the cost of the meat itself, the canning jars and other supplies, the fuel, time, and effort, commercially-canned meat starts to look better and better.

That said, I do keep six dozen new quart wide-mouth canning jars. Those are there only for an emergency, when I’d use them to rescue the meat in our large freezer. With 72 quart jars, I can can about 150 pounds of meat, which is about the most that we’d have in the freezer.

I recommended the Keystone Meats to Cassie. They offer ground beef, beef chunks, pork, chicken, and turkey in 14.5-oz and 28-oz cans. All have a best-by date five years out and in reality will remain appetizing and nutritious far longer than that. Walmart sells all of them on-line at $6.28 per large can except the beef chunks, which are $7.74/can. All with free 2-day shipping. If you compare the price of their canned meats with that of fresh meat, you’ll find that the canned stuff is pretty competitive.

So far, we’ve used the Keystone canned ground beef, chunk beef, and chicken. Barbara prefers fresh, but agrees that the canned stuff is fine, particularly for stir fry, casseroles, slow-cooker meals, and so on. Since I was thinking about it, I went ahead and ordered 12 more cans of the beef chunks, along with a fresh small can of Nestle Nido dry whole milk (to compare with the older can that’s a year past its best-by date), another tub of lard, a box of Walmart dry instant mashed potatoes to try, a #10 of Augason non-fat dry milk to try, and another 10-pound bag of Krusteaz Buttermilk Pancake Mix.

And, in a breakthrough, Jen has finally agreed to let me post one of her emails to me, which I’ll post as a separate article after I post this one. She asked me to clean it up before I posted it, but all I did was fix a couple of typos. She’s also concerned that her writing style might be identifiable to people who’ve read other stuff she’s posted on the Internet, so I went through her post and changed some of the phrasing, although not the meaning.

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