Wednesday, 31 May 2017

08:43 – It was 62.8F (17C) when I took Colin out around 0645 this morning, blindingly sunny. As usual, Colin immediately headed for the back fence to check on his cattle.

Ordinarily, if the cows are at least 10 or 15 meters away from the fence, Colin ignores them and they ignore him. This morning, they were right up at the fence, so he stalked down towards them until he was close enough to do his pounce-bark routine to drive them further away from his fence. But this morning, for the first time, there was a courageous cow, a young one about 3/4 normal adult size, and about 20 meters back from the fence. As Colin stood silently watching it, it noticed him and ambled over towards him. Colin was standing with his snout right at the fence wire, and the cow walked over until it was snout-to-snout with Colin. He finally couldn’t take it anymore and did a ferocious pounce-bark, at which point the cow just stood looking at him for several seconds before it turned and ambled away.

As I was scanning the recently added list on Amazon Prime video last night, I noticed a three-episode homesteading series on soap making. The episodes were only a few minutes, so I watched the first one. Nothing new there; saponification has been around for thousands of years, and the only new thing in the video was that the lady used a silicone bread pan as a mold. She didn’t go into the chemistry of it. She said lye was an acid. Okay.

But I decided to see what else was out there so I did a Roku search for “homesteading”. It came up with a lot of hits, one of which was the Homesteading Channel. They really do have a channel for everything nowadays. So I checked that out.

One of the series was called Life on the Big M Ranch, so I fired up the first episode. It started off well enough, with a bearded young man wearing a t-shirt with a stylized Spartan hoplite silhouette and “Molon Labe” beneath it in Greek letters. That by itself would have told me the family were probably preppers, even if the intro hadn’t mentioned preparing for the “fertilizer to hit the fan”.

The family involved is the Mize family from Easley, SC, about four hours southwest of us. Parents Brian and Tammy, in the 40’s, older son Houston, in his early 20’s, daughter-in-law Dana, also early 20’s, and daughter Kindall, in her early teens. They’re all nice people, the kind of people who could just as easily be our next-door neighbors.

They decide to abandon the rat race and consumer/debt society and relocate to 50 acres in upstate SC, near the NC border. So they buy two 200 square foot (20 square meter) trailer homes, plop them down on their newly-purchased acreage, and go to work building a new life. They keep their current jobs in town for now, because they need the income, but they focus on getting completely out of debt and getting all their important stuff moved to the farm so they can get their house on the market. None of them has any experience whatsoever in farming, handling livestock, and so on, so they have to learn as they go.

I found the early episodes very interesting. Unfortunately, the later episodes started to lose focus. Dana became the face of the Big M Ranch, with the rest of the family appearing very infrequently. So I bagged that and started watching the other multi-episode series on that channel, which was about two families building a homestead in the Ozarks. I bagged that one after Season 1 Episode 1, which was an extended sales pitch for overpriced “survival food”.

Barbara called last night to check in. She’s having a great time. Only three more days until she gets back. The people are supposed to show up today to install the drop ceiling downstairs.

 

 

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

08:59 – It was 60.7F (16C) when I took Colin out around 0715 this morning, mostly cloudy. Colin actually behaved pretty well yesterday. Only four more days until Barbara returns. We thought the sheetrock work downstairs was finished–it looked great to Barbara and me–but Sam just showed up to put on another coat of mud.

We made cornbread for dinner before Barbara left, and finished up a can of baking powder. So of course I added that to my Walmart list, along with another 20 pounds of cornmeal. I already had five boxes of Alpo Variety Snaps for Colin on the list, along with almonds for Barbara.

We periodically have breakfast-dinners, and I’ve been wanting to try johnnycakes one of these times. Those are a traditional Southern breakfast food, and are basically pancakes made with cornmeal instead of wheat flour.

Also, the last time Barbara was at Costco, she bought another case of Kirkland bottled water. This time, instead of getting the 40-pack of 500 mL bottles, she got an 80-pack of 8-ounce (237 mL) bottles. They’re cute little things, and they fit in her pocket while she’s out working in the garden or yard. I’m going to have her start saving those little bottles and transfer pancake syrup to them from the awkward gallon (3.78 L) jugs we buy it in. One of the small bottles will suffice for one or two meals, and won’t be nearly as messy as using the big jugs.

 

 

Monday, 29 May 2017

It’s Memorial Day here in the U.S., the day set aside to remember those who sacrificed themselves to protect our freedom. Although the official purpose of Memorial Day is to remember those who gave their lives in the service of our country, let’s also remember all of those brave men and women, living and dead, who through the years have put their lives on the line to protect all of us. As we have our cookouts and family get-togethers today, let’s all take a moment to think about our troops in the Middle East and elsewhere, who can’t be with their families. And let’s have a thought, not just today but every day of the year, for them and the sacrifices they are making and have made.

08:59 – It was 64.5F (18C) when I took Colin out around 0645 this morning, bright and breezy. With Barbara gone, Colin’s a bit at odds. He was a good dog yesterday. He pestered me pretty constantly, but he does that when Barbara’s at home. He actually deals better with her absence than any of other other dogs have, probably because Colin actually likes me while the others were all about Barbara. Oh, well. Only five more days until Barbara returns.

This morning I read Fred Reed’s latest column, followed by Kurt Schlichter’s. The two in juxtaposition are interesting. Fred writes about the Eloi class of so-called journalists, who don’t mix at all with us Morlocks. Kurt writes that the Eloi are shocked that we Morlocks are starting to hate them right back.

I’ve always read a lot of history. My dad really got me started when I was in sixth grade. One day he brought a bunch of large books into my room and stuck them on the bookshelf. One group was a complete set of Gibbons’ The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The other was a then-complete set of Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization. He suggested I read the Durant volumes first and then if I wanted to know more about Rome to read the Gibbons. As it turned out, I read Durant through Caesar and Christ and then temporarily abandoned Durant to read the Gibbons set. Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated by Roman history but also interested in the rest of what the Durants covered.

And reading history is probably one of the major reasons I’ve always been a prepper. Over and over, one reads about people whose lives were going along swimmingly well. All of them thought nothing bad could happen because nothing bad had happened before. Until something bad happened. Often something disastrously bad. History is basically a long string of disastrously bad situations interspersed with infrequent and short periods of things going well. But people rapidly get used to the latter and come to regard it as normal when in fact it’s anything but normal.

We’ve had Eloi and Morlocks since the dawn of civilizations, and the progression is always the same, anywhere and anywhen. The Eloi rule with an iron fist inside an iron glove, until at some point the Morlocks just stop putting up with it. And I think we’re on the cusp of such an event. And, just as Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette or Nicholas and Alexandra, if they thought about it all, thought their privileged lives would continue just as they were, today’s Eloi have no clue that the rumbling among their Morlocks presages something very unpleasant on the near horizon.

When this dam finally breaks, the consequences are going to be disastrous for everyone. The Morlocks, certainly, but even more so for the Eloi.

 

Sunday, 28 May 2017

08:26 – It was 59.1F (15C) when I took Colin out around 0630 this morning, bright and breezy. We had another half inch (1.27 cm) of rain overnight, with loud thunder. As usual, Colin was terrified, and tried to climb on top of Barbara and me in bed. No joke, given that he’s a 70-pound dog.

Barbara just left for her week-long trip down to the Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC for a crafts class. She returns next Saturday afternoon. Colin and I plan to have WW&P the whole time she’s gone, except that we haven’t located any WW yet.

Email overnight from Jen. They’re running a prepping exercise over the holiday weekend. She and her sister-in-law were baking yesterday when they started talking about baking powder: how much they have, how much they’ll need, and how long it keeps.

Among them, they have half a dozen medium cans of Rumford double-acting baking powder and two 60-ounce jars of Argo. That’s enough to do a lot of baking, since you normally use the stuff a teaspoon or tablespoon at a time. As to shelf life, baking powder is pretty stable as long as you keep it completely dry and at room temperature.

Baking powder comes in two forms. Both release carbon dioxide gas as bubbles that act as leavening. Double-acting, which almost all baking powder sold for home use is, releases some of its gas when it’s exposed to moisture and the rest of its gas when it’s exposed to high temperatures in the oven. Single-acting releases all of its gas when it’s exposed to moisture, and is used primarily by commercial bakers and cooks.

All baking powder is primarily sodium bicarbonate, baking soda. The difference between the two types is what type and how much of a dry acid powder is included. Single-acting includes sufficient water-activated dry acid, typically citric acid, to react completely with the baking soda present. Double-acting contains insufficient acid to completely react with the baking soda immediately, or a type of acid, such as sodium pyrophosphate, that requires heat to free all of its acidity.

You never actually NEED single-acting baking powder. You can substitute plain baking soda and some form or acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice or sour cream or powdered citric acid, in sufficient quantity to produce as much gas as necessary. You just need to make sure the oven is pre-heated and get the batter into a pan and into the oven before the gas bubbles can dissipate.

You never actually NEED double-acting baking powder, either. The main reason it exists is to make things easier for home bakers who might forget to preheat the oven. But again, you can easily make a  substitute for it simply by using excess baking soda. The insufficient acid present in your substitute causes it to emit gas bubbles when water is added to the dry ingredient mix; the excess baking soda releases additional gas during baking.

Jen already has several of those 12/13-pound bags of baking soda in her LTS pantry. They’re stable essentially forever at room temperature. I recommended that she also stock several gallons of distilled white vinegar so that she can make her own substitute. Assuming she also stocks lots of yeast, which she does, she’ll never be short of what she needs to bake whatever she wants to.

 

Saturday, 27 May 2017

08:38 – It was 62.5F (17C) when I took Colin out around 0630 this morning, bright and breezy. More rain and thunderstorms are in the forecast for this evening and tomorrow.

Barbara is doing a quick house clean and getting packed for her week-long trip down to the Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC for a crafts class. She leaves tomorrow morning and returns next Saturday afternoon.

We finished binge-watching the first three seasons of the Australian series The Doctor Blake Mysteries on Netflix streaming last night. They don’t have season four up yet, so I’m grabbing it with BT just to make sure we have it. Unusually for a modern TV mystery, it plays fair with the viewer. There are lots of cuties. Barbara must get tired of me saying, “Boy, <insert-country-name-here> has lots of cuties.” In this case, Nadine Garner, a 40-something cutie, and Cate Wolfe, a 20-something cutie.

With the downstairs torn up, our prepping activities are on hold until things are back to normal down there. We can’t even get to our long-term pantry. So for now I’m just thinking about what I want to do next.

First priority will be to install more shelving. Frances’ and Al’s bedroom has a large walk-in closet. Barbara calls it the water closet because there are cases of water bottles stacked on the floor, something like 600 liters worth. Call it a month’s supply of drinking water for the 4.5 of us.

I want to install floor-to-ceiling bracket and 1×10 or 1×12 shelving on one or both side walls and the end wall of that closet. Before we do that, I need to measure the height/width of the storage containers we use the most–softdrink bottles in 2- and 3-liter sizes, #10 cans, #2.5 cans, and so on. That way, I can set the vertical spacing and shelf width to minimize wasted space. Then I want to do the same for some unused wall space in the unfinished basement area.

That’ll let me relocate stuff that’s currently stacked in the unfinished area in that closet. There’s currently maybe 18 person-months’ worth of LTS food on the built-in shelves in the unfinished area, and I need that shelf space back for science kit related stuff, large chemical bottles and so on. There’s probably about the same amount of LTS food stacked on the floor in the LTS pantry room, and we can move it to shelves in the bedroom closet as well. So, lots to be done once they finish work downstairs.

 

 

Friday, 26 May 2017

09:29 – It was 55.5F (13C) when I took Colin out around 0700 this morning, bright and breezy.

Barbara is off to the gym. Today and tomorrow she’ll be getting packed for her week-long trip down to the Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC for a crafts class. She leaves Sunday morning and returns the following Saturday afternoon.

We finished binge-watching Shetland on Netflix streaming last night. Barbara commented that it was the best recent series we’ve seen, and I agree. Excellent cast, writing, production values, and everything else. We did watch it with closed-captioning turned on because otherwise we’d have been unable to understand a lot of the dialog. In series three, they added the delightful Archie Panjabi as a main character. She’s a beautiful woman and a superb actress. We liked her in The Good Wife, and watching her in Shetland just confirmed our opinion. Barbara and I are both surprised that someone hasn’t given her her own series.

Sam from Shaw Brothers finished the Sheetrock work yesterday afternoon. The next step is to get the drop ceiling installed. The guys are showing up to do that next Wednesday morning. When they finish that, the next step is get everything painted, followed by installing the new floor. As Churchill said, “This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

As long as everything is being ripped out and replaced, Barbara decided to rearrange the furniture downstairs. Our guest bedroom, which we call Frances’s and Al’s room, is at the far end of the downstairs den. We did have the sofa, love seat, end tables, and so on arranged at the near end, right at the bottom of the stairs. But Barbara intends to move that group of furniture down to the far end of the den, which’ll give Frances and Al a sitting/TV area right outside their bedroom door.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

08:39 – It was 51.8F (11C) when I took Colin out around 0700 this morning, sunny and breezy. We’ve had about 3 inches (7.5 cm) of rain over the last couple of days.

Barbara arrived home about 1645 yesterday, driving through torrential rains at some points. When she got home, she checked the forecast and found we were under a tornado watch. Tornadoes are uncommon in North Carolina, and almost always small ones, but the morning paper reported a cluster of them yesterday afternoon, mostly between here and Winston. As Barbara said, she was unknowingly driving home through tornadoes.

She’s spending the morning doing outside work. She has plants to get in the ground, work to do in the garden, and assorted other stuff. This afternoon, I’ll have her labeling bottles while she watches TV.

My bout of vertigo appears to be clearing up. I was pretty unsteady yesterday, but I’m doing much better this morning. Still not 100%, but at least I don’t feel like I’m going to topple over any second.

I’m not sure if the meclizine helped, or if it just cleared up naturally. I was taking 25 mg every four hours all day yesterday, from 0700 to 1900. I’ll probably order more on Amazon just to make sure I have it in stock. I dislike taking any medication and, as a first-generation antihistamine, meclizine is particularly obnoxious. I took a few unintended naps yesterday because of it.

If you follow Franklin Horton’s books, you’ll want to grab his most recent one when it hits Amazon on June 28th.

 

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

07:56 – I didn’t take Colin out this morning because I was having problems with my vertigo. That’s the first time I’ve had that problem in a couple of years, and only the second or third time since I first had the problem back in 2009. So Barbara took Colin out this morning.

I had her dig a bottle of meclizine out of the freezer. It was originally filled in 2009, forty 25-mg tablets, of which about 20 were still in the bottle. I’ll take one every four to six hours until this clears up, which based on prior experience should be at most a day or two.

Barbara was going to cancel both her trip down to Winston today and her week-long craft class that she’s to start Sunday. I told her not to do that. The only change we made is that she’s going to get all her errands run in Winston today and come back around dinner time instead of staying in Winston overnight. I should be fine by tomorrow or Friday, so there’s no reason to cancel her trip Sunday.

 

 

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

09:03 – It was 57.4F (13C) when I took Colin out at about 0650 this morning, foggy and drizzling. We’ve had about 2 inches (5 cm) of rain over the last couple days, and more to come.

Barbara is off shortly to a meeting of the Golf Committee, which does an annual benefit whose proceeds go to the Wellness Center. After that it’s some errands and then the Friends bookstore this afternoon. She has a busy week. Tomorrow, she heads down to Winston to run various errands, and returns Thursday. Then, Sunday morning, she leaves for a week-long trip down to Brasstown in the far, far southwestern corner of the state for a crafts course.

As of yesterday, we have enough chemicals made up to build another two dozen each of the biology and chemistry kits. We’ll continue labeling and filling bottles to boost the limiting quantities of each chemical until we have sufficient numbers of each to build 20 to 30 dozen of each type of kit, which’ll give us a good cushion heading into the crazy season that starts around mid-July.

For years, I’ve been becoming increasingly disgusted with the politically-correct, diverse, multi-cultural mess that modern TV has become. And not just the news and other “non-fiction” stuff. The fictional series are as bad or worse. If you believe the world is as they represent it, most of the doctors, cops, scientists, and other people that people used to admire are now minorities and/or women. White men, to the extent there are any, are generally represented as incompetent if not actually evil. I simply won’t tolerate this bogus representation of reality, so I no longer watch any of these series.

So I’ve started putting mostly old-fashioned TV series in our Netflix and Amazon queues. Many are literally old, done years or decades ago. There are a few recent series that haven’t been infected by this crap, ones like the earlier seasons of Midsomer Murders, when Brian True-May was still running things. Of course, they fired him for not being PC, and the series immediately degenerated into the PC, diverse pile of shit that makes the PTB happy.

So we watch stuff like Vikings and The Last Kingdom. That’s one of the things I like about my Viking ancestors. When they ran into diversity, they slaughtered the diverse men and raped the diverse women and diverse cattle. We’re also watching an Australian series called The Doctor Blake Mysteries. It’s set in 1959, so there’s not much diversity there to start with. And there are a lot of cuties. One of the main characters is a 40-something cutie and another is a 20-something cutie.

 

Monday, 22 May 2017

08:54 – It was 57.3F (13C) when I took Colin out at about 0700 this morning, bright and sunny. Barbara is off to the gym, and then it’ll be more science kit stuff today. She has a busy week on tap, with the Friends bookstore tomorrow afternoon, a trip down to Winston Wednesday afternoon, returning Thursday, and then preparing to depart for a week-long craft class on Sunday, returning the following Saturday. Colin and I need to get prepared for WW&P while she’s gone.

Yesterday, I read a summary of a report from the Fed that said 23% of American families couldn’t pay all of their monthly bills and that 44% of them did not have the cash or equivalent on hand to deal with an unexpected $400 expense. I remember seeing similar figures in the past that something like 75% of US families couldn’t deal with an unexpected $1,000 expense and more than 90% with a $2,500 expense. In other words, the vast majority of US families are living on the edge economically.

And that’s not limited to young people, poorer people, or uneducated people. Obviously, all of those make the problem worse, but there are plenty of middle-class and upper middle-class families whose breadwinner(s) are well-educated, in their 40’s, 50’s, or 60’s, and have few if any financial reserves. This does not bode well for any of us.

The fundamental problem is that most people, whatever their incomes, are living at or above their means. I’ve known many people over the years whose incomes put them in the top 10%, 5%, or even 1%, but they spent their money as fast as or faster than it came in. They put nothing aside for a rainy day. In other words, they’re irresponsible. And I’m afraid that they may soon reap what they’ve sown.