Month: July 2017

Friday, 21 July 2017

08:33 – It was 69F (20.5C) when I took Colin out at 0645, sunny and clear.

The septic tank situation is resolved, in the sense that we can again flush toilets and use the sinks, washing machine, and so on. There’s still a big hole in the back yard. The guy is showing up this morning to pump out the tank, which he says most people have done every 7 to 10 years. The backhoe is still parked out there. After the tank is pumped out, the backhoe guy is supposed to be back to fill in the hole.

I drew a rough map of the tank location. The septic tank is easy enough to find now that we know where it is. From the SW corner of the house on the exact line of the side wall of the house, it’s 14 feet, 2 inches to the center of one of the hatches on the tank. That’s the near-side hatch of the divided tank, on the side where all the solids are supposed to accumulate.

It is a newish tank, which we finally found the records for. It was installed in May 2006. It did indeed have that damned filter, which was a bright yellow coiled thing that was entirely plugged. It’s lying on the ground. They’re going to wash it off and leave it for us, although I can’t imagine we’d ever want to re-install it.

After Larry had popped the hatch and cleared out enough of the mess to let water run again, he had us flush toilets and run water, which promptly backed up through the downstairs toilet. Obviously, we had a plug somewhere between the downstairs toilet and the septic tank. So he dug out more dirt toward the house until he located the main drain line and a buried access port. (He’s going to extend that up so that it pokes above ground level.) The water was flowing freely into the septic tank from that access port, so the problem was obviously under the concrete floor of the basement.

So Larry called Shaw and asked them to bring out an industrial size drain snake. I finally got to meet Elaine, after talking on the phone with her literally a hundred times or more, because she’s the one who brought out the snake. Not only that, but she helped Larry run it into the main pipe from the septic tank into the house to give it a straight shot. Elaine’s job as office manager obviously covers a lot of tasks.

I wasn’t out there while they were doing the snaking, but Barbara was. She says the snake cleared the plug and a flood of water came running into the septic tank, so it appears the clog is no more. At any rate, we’re operational again.

I hadn’t mentioned it, but Winston-Salem got nailed around 1730 Tuesday afternoon with extremely heavy storms–60 MPH (96 KPH) wind gusts, hail, and 2.5″ (6.4 cm) of rain in 20 minutes. Frances’ and Al’s house was in the middle of the worst-affected area. Their power was off until the following morning. Fortunately, they suffered no damage to their house or vehicles, although (I am not making this up) most of their tomatoes blew off the vines and went rolling across their yard and down the street.

Frances called Barbara soon after the power failed, and of course Barbara told them to come on up if they needed somewhere safe to shelter. They decided not to come up, although even if they had they might not have been able to. All of the traffic lights were out, there were millions of fallen trees blocking the roads, every intersection had become a parking lot, and so on. One friend of Frances said that her usual short drive home from work took her three hours.

As it turned out, of course, Frances and Al would have been no better off up here. When Barbara made the offer on Tuesday afternoon/evening, all was fine here. It was the following morning that the sewage backed up in the basement.

Email from Kathy. She decided to take a vacation day today to give her the long weekend to work on food repackaging and so on. If things go well and it looks like they’ll have time, they plan to make another Sam’s Club run tomorrow to stock up on more stuff, including toilet paper, paper towels, and similar stuff.

Kathy said she wished she’d been keeping track of toilet paper usage and asked if I had any ideas. I told her that, statistically and overall, an average American used about one roll per week, with women and girls, particularly those of menstrual age, averaging between two and three times as much as men and boys. Her guesstimate was that the four of them average maybe five rolls/week total, which sounds reasonable, so a year’s supply is roughly 250 rolls. She set her initial goal at 300 rolls, although it may take multiple trips to haul that much home.

Of course, all rolls are not the same. They vary in thickness, size, weight, and number of sheets per roll. I suggested that she go by weight because that’s the best indicator. People use roughly the same weight per usage, no matter how many sheets that totals. If it takes twice as many of the thinner, lighter sheets to make up the same weight, that’s what an average person will use.

For example, we’ve been using Costco toilet paper for ten or fifteen years, both the Signature (425 sheets/roll) and Ultra Soft (231 sheets/roll). Both cost about the same per roll, and also weigh about the same per roll, so there’s not a lot to choose between them. We buy whichever is on sale at the time.

Back in early May, I decided to check the recycled Georgia-Pacific Envision, so I ordered an 80-roll pack from Amazon. It’s bit smaller dimensionally, but not so’s you’d notice. Although they contain 550 sheets, the rolls are a bit lighter than the Costco Signature stuff. IIRC, those 80 rolls of GP Envision were equivalent to something like 72 rolls of the Costco product on a weight-to-weight basis. Barbara tried it and said it was fine with her. It didn’t feel like sandpaper or anything. And, at the time, it cost about $0.38/roll (about $0.43/roll on an equivalent weight basis), or roughly 60% of Costco’s non-sale price.

That doesn’t sound like a big difference but if you’re buying 250 or 300 rolls it’s maybe $80 less for the GP product. I was going to mention it to Kathy, but I checked prices first. When I bought a case in early May, Amazon charged about $31 delivered. When I checked yesterday, their price was up to $46. Walmart has it for the same price. Costco has it for $50. At that price, there’s just not enough difference to make it worth buying the recycled institutional-grade GP stuff.

I also suggested to Kathy that she buy a few dozen hotel-grade washcloths as personal cloths and some granular calcium hypochlorite (AKA HTH or Pool Shock) to sterilize them between uses. I keep an adequate supply of these, just in case the toilet paper ever runs out. Better than a handful of leaves.

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Thursday, 20 July 2017

08:15 – It was 66F (20C) when I took Colin out at 0630, sunny and clear.

We didn’t get much done yesterday after I posted. The electrician showed up mid-morning. When we walked downstairs, there was a pool of sewage from the downstairs toilet overflowing. Oddly, there was no strong odor. I couldn’t smell anything. Even Barbara, with her much more sensitive, non-smoking snout, said there was a very, very slight sewage odor, but nothing she noticed until she went downstairs. I called Shaw Brothers immediately to let them know we needed help.

The toilet had suffered a volcanic eruption, spraying sewage and toilet paper all over the bathroom floor and out into the den area, where it soaked the bottom books in the many stacks of books still on the floor. Barbara bagged all those up yesterday and took them to the dump.

At that point, we were hoping that it was just the drain for that toilet that was plugged up. We’d used a bunch of old towels to soak up the sewage on the floor, and I made the mistake of carrying them upstairs and putting them in the washer, with plenty of detergent and chlorine bleach. I soon realized my error, as Barbara shouted up that the bathtub and downstairs sink was backing up. So I killed the wash cycle.

To make a very long story short, a backhoe is to show up this morning to dig up the septic tank. No matter what the problem turns out to be, I want them to pump it out as long as they have it uncovered.

When we first moved up here, I was surprised that there were no pump-out pipes sticking up on any of the septic systems we saw. Back 40+ years ago, I had many friends up in Pennsylvania who lived on rural properties. Most of them had a pipe sticking up from the septic tank. Those few that didn’t turned out to have a metal hatch cover buried under only a few inches of soil. Down here, they bury the septic tanks, and they have to be dug out when they need to be pumped.

Let that be a lesson to me. A year or more ago, I’d just about convinced myself to preemptively pump out our septic tank. But I talked to several people, who all said the same thing. That a lot of people had septic tanks that had worked just fine for 30 or 40 years. But I want this pumped out now. We’re in our early 60’s, and I don’t want to be dealing with this 10 or 20 years from now.

Fortunately, part of being prepared for things in general means we’re also prepared for this. We got the bedside commode down from the attic and set it up in the master bathroom upstairs. We have thousands of those t-shirt/thank-you bags, which fit over the bucket in the potty chair.

We can’t run any water down the drains until the situation is resolved, so Barbara brought up three of the 3-gallon dishpans from downstairs. There’s now one in each side of the kitchen sink and one on the counter to the side, so we can now wash dishes if we need to. The water still runs, but even if it didn’t we have plenty of bottled water to hold us.

The upshot is that being prepared makes this situation a lot more bearable that it might have been. We still can’t take showers, but Barbara can shower at the gym if necessary. I’ll just sponge-bathe if it comes to that.

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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

08:45 – It was 68F (20C) when I took Colin out at 0700, sunny and clear.

I got a bunch of solutions made up yesterday for science kits. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be labeling and filling bottles–thousands of them–making up chemical bags, small parts bags and other subassemblies, and building finished kits. As usual this time of year, we’ll be hard-pressed finding places to stack the finished goods inventory.

Email overnight from long-time reader Paul Robichaux, with the subject line “You knew it all along I guess”, and a link to this article about the myth of drug expiration dates.

Yeah, I knew it all along, or at least back to the 70’s, when I did activity tests on long-expired antibiotics, many of them dating back 25 years or more, and found that all were at least 75% as potent as they’d been originally and in most cases close to 100%. And these had been stored at room temperature and in some cases without any climate control in barns and so forth. Most of them were agricultural antibiotics, including penicillin, tetracycline, erythromycin, and so on, although some were capsules or tablets intended for human use. Obviously, I could do no safety testing, but there was no reason to believe any of the drugs had degraded at all, let alone become unsafe.

I store our own stocks of antibiotics and other drugs in the freezer, which should quadruple or even octuple their real shelf-lives. In other words, they should be as good literally 100 years from now as they are today.

Red flag to a bull. I spotted this article yesterday, which claims that there are two correct solutions to this math puzzle, but only one in a thousand people will figure out both solutions. I assumed it’d take me about 15 seconds to get both. I was wrong. It took me 22 seconds. The problem was, there are not just two correct answers, but at least three. I say at least, because after getting three correct answers in 22 seconds, I stopped working on it. There are likely more correct answers, depending on how deeply you want to look for patterns.

Interestingly, I came up with the third solution–the one they don’t know about–first, the “difficult” solution second, and their “easy” solution third. (Hint: those solutions are, in that order, 52, 96, and 40.)

More email from Kathy. She works a normal year-round job, but as a teacher Mike gets summers off. After he finishes the second shelf-island, he intended to go to work on repackaging. Kathy asked him not to do that, because (a) she thinks it’ll go better with two people working on it–and she’s right about that, as we know from experience–and (b) she wants the experience of repackaging. She didn’t say so, but my guess is that (c) as would be many wives, she’s afraid he’ll somehow screw it up, or make a big mess, or something.

So they’ve agreed that he’ll instead devote time this week to getting all of the canned/bottled supplies unpacked and arranged on the shelves with the latest best-by dates toward the back, and those shelves labeled with sections for canned meats, soups, sauces, condiments, vegetables, fruits, cooking/baking essentials, herbs/spices, etc. etc. Mike intentionally left a fair amount of space on the island shelving units between the top shelves and the ceiling. He used 6-foot vertical posts, so they have a top shelf on each unit that’s about two feet from the ceiling. That space will be devoted to toilet paper, paper towels, and similar light but bulky items.

As it turns out, Mike isn’t yet finished building stuff in the basement. Kathy is now exchanging email with Jen, Brittany, Cassie, Jessica, Lisa, et alia. To make a long story short, to Mike’s surprise Kathy has decided she’s going to learn to pressure-can. She told him she wanted a heavy-duty built-in table on the wall next to the basement sink, on the other side of the washer-drier. Mike pointed out that she’d never pressure-canned anything in her life, but she pointed out that she now knew lots of women who did, and anyway she’s signed up for a pressure-canning course at the local ag extension office.

Mike pointed out that there’s no range/cooktop in the basement. No problem, Kathy said. She’d use a hot plate or two. That ain’t gonna work, Mike pointed out. You’ll need 220/240VAC to get enough watts/BTU’s to do pressure canning. So we’ll install a second-hand or inexpensive new electric cooktop, Kathy suggested. No room in the breaker panel for another 220/240VAC breaker, says Mike.

Not one to be beaten–something she has in common with Jen and the rest–Kathy then announced that in that case even though it’d cost more she wanted to install a propane cooktop and a large propane tank. That would not only be an excellent solution for pressure-canning, but would give them a completely off-grid solution for cooking and baking. Having been married for quite a few years, Mike knew he was beaten. So he suggested that rather than have him cobble together a working surface that he visit the local building supply store and pick up two or three inexpensive base cabinets, maybe a couple of upper cabinets, a laminate countertop, and a propane-capable gas cook top.

He’ll also call the local propane supplier and order a large propane tank to be installed as soon as possible, with lines run for the cooktop, a space heater, and one terminating near the rear basement door for a tri-fuel generator that they don’t have yet. In consultation with the Prepper Girls, Kathy will take care of ordering a pressure canner and canning supplies, jars, lids, etc. She also asked Mike about buying a dehydrator. As any husband who’s not a complete newbie would in that situation, he replied, “Why not?”

Kathy also mentioned something interesting that she hadn’t told me before. She gets three weeks of vacation, which she normally takes as one week over Christmas and two weeks in the summer, when they normally go on a vacation trip. This year, they decided to skip the vacation trip and devote the significant money that would have cost them to buying LTS food and other prepping supplies. They also cut way back on their monthly cable TV bill and signed up for Netflix streaming to replace the big cable TV package. The upshot is that they’ll be spending more than $100/month less on TV, all of which goes to buying prepping supplies. They have a couple of financially major projects in mind–including a small off-grid solar setup–and need to do a bunch of filling out on various categories including medical supplies, ammunition and perhaps another couple of gubs.

They’re both happy with their new, less expensive entertainment options. They already had Prime streaming, and with Netflix streaming added they are in great shape for stuff to watch. Mike is suffering sports withdrawal, but says he’ll get over it. No word from their kids.

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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

09:21 – It was 66.1F (19C) when I took Colin out at 0650, sunny and clear. Barbara is working around the house and yard this morning, and volunteering this afternoon.

We’re working on building more science kits, which is a lot easier now that the lab/work area in the unfinished part of the basement is again accessible. I spent some time yesterday placing orders for stuff we’re short of: 6,000 650-mg sodium bicarbonate tablets, a kilo of potassium hydroxide, three kilos each of citric acid, oxalic acid, and salicylic acid, and so on. Today I need to make up 10 liters of fertilizer concentrate, which we need for biology kits, another four liters of 6M hydrochloric acid, and so on. Kit sales are running slower than usual for July, but that’ll change any time now.

It’s a great relief to have our house back and clean again. Barbara is happy, so I’m happy.

Email overnight from Kathy. Her Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers have arrived, and her reaction was exactly the same as everyone else’s I’ve spoken with who’s done this: “What have I gotten myself into?” With almost a ton of flour, pasta, sugar, and other dry staples to be repackaged, she and her husband are looking at a major project.

Mike has finished one of the basement shelf-islands and the other is in progress. He plans to finish the second one this week, so they’ll have plenty of shelf space to hold the stuff. They are devoting this coming weekend to repackaging all of their bulk stuff and getting it and all the canned goods shelved.

Mike also picked up four used but clean food-grade 55-gallon plastic drums and faucets for them, along with enough concrete blocks to make stands for them. They don’t have room for them in their food room, but they’ll fit along the wall in the outer basement. He plans to get the faucets installed and get them up on the stands and filled this week. They’ll chlorinate the water and change it out every six months. They figure that’ll give them enough potable water to supply minimal drinking, cooking, and toilet flushing needs for the four of them for three weeks or so or, in a pinch, just drinking water for a couple months.

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Nick post- quick response to article becomes a post about selling stuff online

Some people here have expressed interest in my business (former sideline, now primary) and conveniently there is an article on survivalblog…

I wrote this response as a comment, but promoted it to post due to length. It’s still a bit rough though.

This article isn’t horrible, and in fact has some good stuff, but the author seems to completely miss the point:

“I am, again, currently unemployed. However, I finally took the initiative and started an online business to bring in some extra cash.”

She says this like it’s a revelation, yet she previously started and failed at two other businesses “I have had my own HR consulting company,[and] started my own sporting goods store”– what she really means is “This time I decided to buy and sell stuff online” thinking that it would be easier than working.

Online business is a BUSINESS. It’s got differences but it’s a business, not a magical unicorn that farts money.

Throughout the previous 25 years, she keeps going back to being an employee, subject to the whims and vicissitudes of others. This time is no different, she’s still got the mindset of an employee (do as little as possible, collect check).

Even with this statement– “In 2015 I saw the collapse in the oil and gas industry coming and decided that I needed to generate some “mailbox money” then to help supplement my unemployment insurance until it ran out. I was finally RIF’ed (selected as part of the Reduction in Force) in February 2016. My unemployment insurance ran out August 2016. Fortunately, I began prepping for that moment back in 2015 when I began investigating the fastest ways to make money and build a business. Not only that, but I doubled my efforts putting up canned goods and other consumable items.” — And so she reveals herself. She PLANNED to fail, coasting until her benefits were gone. She’s looking for the next ‘get rich quick’ scheme. She does start stacking, which is to the good, but that’s the only positive thing in the paragraph.

Then she discovers that there is a learning curve, and she’s gotta WORK at it! “There is definitely a learning curve to selling online. One must take into consideration pricing your items correctly, selling fees, monetary transaction fees, shipping fees, shipping supplies, time listing the items, negotiating with buyers, and other issues. I lost money the first month and began to run out of stuff to sell. I had to find another way to find stuff to sell.” — JUST LIKE A BUSINESS, who’da thunk it? And how do you lose money selling off your old cr@p?

“Although I knew I was going to lose my job, I was not mentally prepared for it.” — which is because she never really accepted that it was going to happen, which is probably why she never treated the online selling as a business.

“PayPal account … Since it was difficult to get money out of that account, I left it there for my “rainy day”. ” — NO IDEA what she’s talking about here. Paypal is linked to a bank account. You hit “Transfer money to my bank” select an amount, and in 3-5 days go to your bank and withdraw the money. Simple. Or use Paypal at POS machines instead of cash or credit. LOTS of real life stores accept Paypal.

“Finding Sources of Products Online To Sell For A Profit” — here’s another mistake. She’s buying cheap crap from alibaba and aliexpress to resell. That’s a REALLY crowded field, with no way to differentiate yourself except price, AND it’s all cheap crap anyway. sells large lots of store returns and open box merch (mainly) which are going to have issues. I’m gonna guess at a 20-40% breakage rate, or in other words, only 60-80% of it is going to be good. Might be wrong, because it’s been a while since I looked at that stuff. I decided it was too crowded on the buy side with all the newbies bidding up the prices past where you could make any money. Never looked at bulq . com

“Starting an online store is not that difficult, but it is very, very, very time consuming.”– more unnecessary work and expense. WHY build your own store at all? For this kind of thing, use ebay. Even setting up an ebay store (if you have the volume) is straightforward, and your customers are already looking there! No bothering with SEO, promotion, or ‘driving traffic’. NO web fees, SSL certs, or site management.

“When I ran out of stuff to sell around the house, I had to begin using the money I had to begin buying stuff. Since it takes time to sell stuff, I began running out of money fast to buy stuff and to live on at the same time.” — translated, ‘after I lost money, selling off all my old crap, I discovered that buying a bunch of cheap crap and hoping to make a few cents on each sale, ties up money in inventory, and when those sales don’t happen, there isn’t any PROFIT.’

So she takes on debt to further her ill considered business model– ” I borrow money from them, buy the product and sell it with a bit of a markup; in return, they get their money back in full plus interest.” — translated as ‘ I enter another business agreement with FAMILY to piss away their money too.’

Then she looks at entering ANOTHER agreement, to take on MORE debt, but (I think) didn’t qualify as she doesn’t say she actually signed up for the “Working Capital”.

Finally she closes by expressing her fervent desire to abandon her business venture, and return to the bosom of Big Corp at the approximate age of 5o? 55? –” I’ve been unemployed for a year and a half. By the grace of God, I will find another job. ” –her own words reveal that she never thought of herself as ‘working’ at her online business.


So what can we learn from this?

The nature of work is changing. If your entire employment history is one desperate transfer from one sinking ship to another, STOP! Get out! Don’t expect to continue finding a chair when the music stops. Sooner or later you won’t and you’ll be forced to face that. Act at the time of your choosing. Change industries, fields, or start that other business.

If you have warning that your situation will be changing, TAKE THE TIME GIVEN! Take it seriously and get prepped! She should have learned her lessons while she had the cushion of a regular paycheck, or she should have been actively looking for another situation… NOT planning to coast and milk her benefits until they ran out THEN start looking.

Business is business. Being online doesn’t change that. You still need to know how a business runs, what makes it successful/profitable, and you need to put in the work. What is different about selling online is that your startup costs can be very low, and you can start very slowly. You don’t need to rent a building, stock it with inventory, and hire employees. (she did the virtual version of this- exactly what you DON’T need to do.)

As she did, you can start by selling stuff you already own. Old hobbies, and collections that no longer interest you are good sources of items. There is no way you should lose money doing this. If you can’t take free stuff, and sell it for a profit, that should be a lesson for you! (assume the stuff has 0 cost basis as it’s just sitting there unused and unwanted) Again, businesses have costs. Shipping, fees, commissions, supplies, etc are all part of the cost of doing business. If the price of the item won’t cover those things, DON’T SELL IT. If you do, you are paying someone to take your stuff. In that case, you’re better off piling it on the curb, or having a yard sale. Many things WON’T be economical to sell online, and you should just have a yard sale.

This first part is your ‘learning’ period. You learn about Paypal and Ebay taking 10-13% You learn how to take good pictures so you don’t need to edit every one. You learn about shipping options and costs. You learn what sort of things sell for you. You learn how long it takes to measure, weigh, photograph, and list items, and you learn HOW MUCH you need to PROFIT on the item to make it worth doing! This is what she should have been doing during the year warning she had.

After learning the basics and building your transaction history and skills on ebay or etsy or your local FB group, then you need to start sourcing more stuff to sell. Decide what you LIKE looking for and LIKE selling. Do you have special knowledge or skills? Do you have a hobby or collection that gives you special insight? Keep in mind that ‘collector’ mindset will hurt you if you are doing it for profit. Keep in mind that each type of item will have its own learning curve wrt desirability, pricing, packaging, etc. For example, toy trains might interest you. You might start buying them at what you think is a reasonable cost, but it turns out they are all very common sets and don’t sell well unless deeply discounted. Every time I decide to sell some new type of items, I made mistakes in purchasing and selling. Sometimes they were VERY COSTLY mistakes. That’s why it’s very helpful to start out with items you know, and items that are LOW COST TO YOU.

Like any business, if you have low margins you need HIGH VOLUMES to make profits. If you can keep your margins up, you can sell a lot less and still make profit. You’ll work a lot less, and your costs will be lower too. This was the mistake she made. She had low margins on cheap crap, and was not in a position to sell high volumes.

Leverage existing networks/infrastructure. Ebay is the big dog for a reason. It costs you nothing but fees to get started on ebay. In the beginning ebay was like an online yard sale, but that has changed. There are sellers with MILLIONS of transactions. I routinely see sellers with 10s and even 100s of thousands of transactions. Almost everyone will go to ebay and search ebay, many of them looking for brand new commodity items or traditional retail items. Your listings are right there too! Whether you are selling one of a kind vintage items, or you aspire to 100s of thousands of sales, why NOT go where the customers already are? AND save the cost, time, and effort of developing your own store.

What sells well changes over time and is different for different sellers. Don’t build big inventory. Just in time works for little guys. Buy it with the goal of selling it right away. DO NOT sit on items! (this can be difficult for me, I like to let certain things age in my possession. You’re buying to SELL, not KEEP. Don’t get high on your own supply.)

The best way to maximize return on effort is to buy multiple items you can sell from one listing. It takes the same time to list a $20 item as a $200 item, or 20 items that are all the same and sell for $30 each. Guess which listing keeps paying you for the same effort?

Sometimes an item won’t sell for a LONG time. I’ve got stuff listed that finally sold after literal years. ONLY relist items like that if they are going to generate a good profit when sold, and when you have ‘free listings’.

Price aggressively. Use the “Sold Listings” search option to see what similar items sold for, then click on the “Sell one like this” button and start your listing from there. Always check if an item is selling, has dozens of unsold items just like it already listed, and what it actually sells for BEFORE buying the item. Even if you can double your money on that thrift store item, is it worth the effort for $5 net? If you don’t ask that question, you won’t make any money! Your goal should be to minimize any inventory. You want constant turn over on unique items, and quick sell out on lots.

Keep in mind that you need enough profit to fund more purchasing, and to throw off cash for your personal goals (eating this week, or funding the new bang toy, etc)

Do some research on youtube. See what other ebay sellers/ thrifters are doing. (this is a whole lifestyle thing, buying and selling online, with a vblog) Decide if it’s something that will work for you. (one prominent youtuber says they make good money selling Hometics power supplies. I see them all the time, so I started picking them up. I can’t seem to sell ANY. Not gonna pick up any more.)

Maximize your ‘edge’ whether it’s specialized knowledge, repair skills, or regional arbitrage (buying where an item is common, and selling where it is not.) Eventually, your edge might be that you can buy multi-pallet lots for thousands of dollars, and have your staff process the warehouse full for sale! You’ll be able to outbid me every time!

Finally, selling online is relatively easy, has very low barriers to entry, and can be profitable. Like most businesses, you get out of it what you put in. If it’s going to be a primary source of income for you, after that initial ‘trial period’ you need to COMMIT and put in the effort, but be smart and learn first WHERE your effort is best spent.


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Monday, 17 July 2017

09:06 – It was 78.7F (26C) when I took Colin out at 0800, bright and partly cloudy. That’s the latest Colin has let me sleep in for at least several months.

Barbara spent all day yesterday doing a deep clean to get rid of the drywall dust, which was everywhere. I spent an hour or so wiping down the kitchen cabinets and counters. She’s satisfied now with the whole house, other than the LTS food room and unfinished basement area, which still need some work.

Speaking of LTS, Barbara made up a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese the other night. As she was making it, she commented that the best-by date was three years ago, in the summer of 2014, and asked if it would be okay. I told her it would be fine. As we were eating dinner, she commented that it tasted a bit “off” to her, and asked what I thought. I told her it tasted the same to me as it always had, which was to say not very good. I’ve never liked it. Their powdered cheese sauce sucks, especially compared with the similar Velveeta product, which is actual sauce in a foil packet.

She said she’d just pitch what we had left, which is probably a couple of dozen boxes. I told her the pasta was perfectly fine, but to go ahead and pitch the cheese sauce packets if she wanted to. So we’ll open the boxes, transfer the pasta to a #10 can or whatever, and discard the cheese packets.

Email overnight from Kathy. Still no Mylar bags or oxygen absorbers from LDS, so she decided to transfer as much of the cornmeal as they had 1-liter bottles for. It comes in paper sacks, so even without an oxygen absorber it’s better stored in PET bottles than paper. And they have a continuing supply of those 1-liter bottles and use cornmeal only a cup or two at a time, so one liter is a good size container for it.

10:06 – I just signed up for Netflix DVD’s, two-at-a-time plan. The last time we got DVD’s from Netflix was five years ago. Since then, we’ve used only Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming.

There’s not much left on Netflix streaming we want to watch, other than some of the series Barbara follows. Most of those are also available on DVD. There are some interesting exceptions. For example, she follows Blue Bloods, which is currently available through season 7 on streaming, but only season 6 on disc, presumably because S7 hasn’t yet been released on DVD. Also, Heartland (which I first discovered on Netflix DVD) now has zero seasons available on DVD. That doesn’t matter. I BT current episodes as they’re released, collect them to watch all at once when the season is complete, usually in April or May, and then buy the DVD set when it becomes available, usually in September.

There’s a ton of stuff we’d like to watch that’s on DVD but not available on NF or Amazon streaming, including all seasons of the Australian series A Place to Call Home and the New Zealand series The Brokenwood Mysteries. I also added one to our DVD queue that Barbara has been waiting to watch since the last time we were getting DVDs. It’s about Mist, a BC puppy. It’s currently listed as “very long wait”, so I put it at the top of our queue, assuming that as new members we’ll get preference in getting it shipped to us.

The last time I made caramel sauce, it was good but never really set up. That was fine, because I was using it on ice cream. Last night, we made up another batch to a different recipe. A cup of brown sugar (we actually used a cup of white sugar and a tablespoon of molasses), half a cup of butter (one stick), a quarter cup of milk. Bring to a boil, simmer for three or four minutes, turn off the heat, and add a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Boy, did that one ever set up. It was still warm and flowed easily when I tried it on ice cream last night. As soon as it hit the ice cream, it solidified into a chewy mass. It tasted fine, but I prefer my caramel sauce a bit less solid.

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Sunday, 16 July 2017

11:06 – It was 70.0F (21C) when I took Colin out at 0720, sunny and cloudless.

Frances and Al came up Friday morning, stayed the night, and attended yesterday’s auction of Bonnie’s house and its contents. There were a lot of people at the auction, with cars parked up and down Macedonia Church Road, including along the front edge of our property.

The house and 0.6 acre it sits on sold for $67,000, which was more than I expected. (It’s tiny; more a cottage than a house.) Barbara called as they were auctioning the house itself. As I headed out our front door, I heard the auctioneer calling $67,000 for the final time. I walked on up to the house and greeted several of our neighbors and other local folks we know.

We’d been very concerned that the house would be bought by someone undesirable or, just as bad, someone who was buying it to rent out. We were hoping for a nice young couple, a nice retired couple, or perhaps weekenders from down in the Triad.

As it turned out, we couldn’t have hoped for better. It was bought by a couple who owns a cattle farm across US21 from us. They’re going to rent it, but that’s fine with us. The renter will be their niece (or daughter; Barbara heard daughter and I heard niece). She’ll probably be there indefinitely, and the new owners assured us that they’d never rent it to anyone undesirable. They no more want trash living in the neighborhood than we do. And Kim, the wife, assured us that the house would always look as good as it does now, if not better.

Our new neighbor is their daughter (or niece), Grace. She’s about 22 and just graduated from UNC/ECU in Greenville, where she’s kept her college apartment while looking for a job. She found a job, here, as a teacher at Sparta Elementary, and will be moving in in the next couple of weeks.

So now instead of referring to it as “Bonnie’s house” we’re training ourselves to refer to it as “Grace’s house”.

Email from Kathy overnight. While Mike was building shelves yesterday, she got started on repackaging the 400 pounds of flour they bought. The LDS foil-laminate bags and oxygen absorbers hadn’t arrived yet, so she decided to do a first-pass repackaging using her Foodsaver vacuum sealer. Once the LDS stuff arrives, she’ll enclose each of those inner bags in a Mylar bag with oxygen absorber. That’ll make the Mylar bagging go much, much faster, although flour will still make a mess with the vacuum sealer. Just less of a mess than trying to bag it directly into the Mylar bags.

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Saturday, 15 July 2017

08:58 – It was 69.6F (21C) when I took Colin out at 0700, overcast and drippy.

The basement den and master bath are both complete except for some punch-list items like re-installing vent grills and installing the ceiling light fixtures downstairs. We’ll stay off the ceramic tile in the master bath until tomorrow, by which time Justin says it’ll be fully set. We have all of the furniture in place in the downstairs den, although Barbara still has to re-shelve a whole bunch of books. The unfinished lab/work area is pretty much cleared out and the food storage room is in reasonably good shape.

We’re going to walk next door this morning, where Bonnie’s house and its contents are being auctioned. Barbara is very concerned about who will end up buying it. She afraid it’ll become a rent house. I’m not too concerned. Not all renters are undesirable neighbors. After all, we rented for the first four years after we were married. Ideally, we’d like to see a nice young couple buy it. Either that or weekenders from Winston or wherever. But we’ll deal with whatever happens. If worst comes to horrible, we’ll put up a tall hedge or similar barrier along the property line.

Email from Kathy, who says she’s all dressed up and nowhere to go. They’d planned to spend this weekend repackaging bulk food, but the foil-laminate Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers they ordered from LDS online haven’t arrived yet.

They don’t drink much that is sold in 2-liter bottles, but they do drink a lot of flavored sparkling water that comes in heavy 1-liter bottles, which they’ve been washing out and saving for the last couple of weeks. The only food they have that made sense to repackage in those was the case of twelve 4-pound boxes of Morton iodized table salt they got at Sam’s Club. So they transferred that yesterday afternoon. One box fits nicely in a 1-liter bottle and doesn’t need an oxygen absorber, so they now have a dozen or so neatly labeled bottles of table salt. As Kathy said, it isn’t much, but it’s a start.

10:27 – There are scores of cars parked up and down the street for the auction, which just started at 10:00. When I walked up to the house around 0930, there must have been 150 or 200 people there already. Barbara was looking around at the personal possessions, but I don’t think she’ll bid on anything. We agreed standing there that she won’t bid on the house.

More email from Kathy. Mike decided that since they couldn’t repackage their LTS bulk food this weekend he’d spend the weekend building more shelves. Their food-storage-room-to-be is in the basement, with concrete walls and floor. There are already solidly-built, foot-wide, floor-to-ceiling shelves around the perimeter of the room, but they agreed they were going to need more shelving. They have room for two eight-by-two foot islands in the middle of the room, so they decided to build them themselves rather than mess around with modular steel shelving. Four 2X4-foot steel units would have cost them around $400 at the local building supply place, and the plywood and lumber Mike needs to build them will probably cost at least as much, but Mike prefers to build them himself from US-sourced materials rather than buy Chinese-made stuff.

They’ll end up with more shelf space than they actually need for what they’ve bought and have on-order, but Kathy thinks one can never have enough shelf space. And she’s probably right.

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Friday, 14 July 2017

08:48 – It was 73.3F (23C) when I took Colin out at 0720, overcast and breezy.

Justin almost finished laying the ceramic tile in the master bathroom yesterday. He ended up one or two pieces short because he ran out of mortar. He’ll lay the remaining pieces this morning and then grout it. So we should have our bathroom usable again by Sunday, after everything has had a chance to dry and set.

While we were moving stuff out of the unfinished area yesterday, Barbara noticed water under the water heater. We’d just had the plumbers out a week or two ago to replace the feed lines, which were dripping. This time, it was the water heater itself. So they hauled a new water heater out here and installed it. I told Barbara I was thinking about disconnecting all our home plumbing and having an old-fashioned well with crank and bucket installed.

We started getting stuff moved back into the downstairs den yesterday. Most of the heavy stuff–bookshelves, sofa, love seat, corner table, and so on–is already in there, although not yet positioned. We’ll spend today getting stuff where it belongs. I’m really looking forward to the unfinished work area and the food storage room being accessible again.

Our busiest time of year for kit sales starts now. We’ve had four kit orders in the last 24 hours, and that will only accelerate as we move toward the crazy period in August and September. For the next two to three months we’ll be shipping kits as fast as we can make them. Mid-July is when homeschoolers start getting serious about getting ready for the autumn semester. After that, things will slow down a bit until mid- to late-November, when Christmas sales kick in along with people getting ready for the January semester.

11:47 – We now have almost all of the furniture cleaned and in place in the downstairs den. Things are starting to shape up. Next, we’ll be hauling books, thousands of them, out of the unfinished area and into the den to get onto the shelves. Barbara will have to spend some serious time getting them all organized and shelved. The only thing MIA so far is the remote control for the downstairs TV, but I’m sure we’ll uncover it as we continue moving stuff out of the food storage room.

I just talked to Justin. I said he must have noticed that we were preppers. He said, yeah, either that or serious couponers. I said I guessed that prepping was pretty common up here, and he agreed, but commented that there was a huge difference between the year-rounders and the part-timers. The former typically have basements chocked full of food and other supplies, while the part-timers seldom have any supplies at all. He commented that most of them go to the supermarket every day and keep literally no food in the house. He also said he’d talked to more than one of them who had no idea how to pump his own gas.

He said that he and his wife kept a couple months’ worth of LTS food on hand for them and their two kids, but that didn’t count their large and easily-expandable garden or his dad’s cattle farm and its 300 head of beef cattle. He said he figured if TSEDHTF they’d all be eating a lot of beef.

So if push comes to shove, the weekenders and summer people will be in a world of hurt. The full-time residents, not so much. So we have our own Golden Horde living a few miles down the road. Not to worry, though. Most of them would have no clue which end of a gun goes bang.

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Thursday, 13 July 2017

08:59 – Friday the 13th falls on a Thursday this month.

It was 75.1F (23C) when I took Colin out at 0715, cloudless and bright.

The downstairs is finished enough that we can get to work on getting stuff back where it belongs. Today and tomorrow we’ll work on the den, getting pictures hung and the furniture dusted, lemon-oiled, and back in position. Then the bedrooms. The guest room, which Frances and Al use when they’re here, won’t take much work, mainly just moving some boxes out. They could sleep in it tonight, if they were here. The food/prepping storage area is going to take more work. There’s still stuff stacked on the floor and every horizontal surface, although Barbara did manage to clear footpaths a few days ago. Still, it’ll be a massive amount of work to finish reorganizing that. There’s still stuff stacked in there that hasn’t been moved since we moved into the house in December, 2015. But we’ll get it all straightened up and organized.

Then there’s the unfinished area. A lot of that will be cleaned up automatically, as we move furniture, books, and boxes out of there and into the finished area. But there’ll still be a lot to be done.

I’ve commented on this before, but one thing that strikes me over and over again is that when a woman contacts me about prepping, she wants to talk mostly about food. When a guy contacts me, he generally wants to talk about guns.

It’s not exclusive either way, of course. Women also want to talk about guns and guys about food, but the difference in focus is pretty obvious. Again, as I’ve said before, everything comes down to biology. Women and men are both the products of a couple million years of evolution, which has adapted them for different tasks. Women, and there is nothing sexist about this statement, are gatherers, adapted to bear and raise children, care for the home, and establish social links with others in their family/clan/tribe/community. Men are hunters, adapted to track down and kill food and to defend their family/clan/tribe/community.

That’s not to say that each can’t do the other’s job, with obvious exceptions, and do it well. But the essence of a successful community is that all members focus on their own strengths, doing what they do best. Modern civilization hasn’t changed that underlying reality, nor the evolved instincts that support it.

So it’s not really surprising that women preppers tend to focus strongly on traditional women’s responsibilities and men preppers on traditional men’s responsibilities. The foundation of marriage is that a man and a woman combined are more than the sum of the parts.

What disturbs me is that, at age 64, I am no longer physically suited to take on the traditional male role, at least that for young men. I am, of course, suited to take on the traditional role for older men in the clan; serving as a font of knowledge and experience. That’s why older men and women have traditionally been highly valued by their clans. So that’s what I focus on. That, and food. Just like a girl.

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