Friday, 29 September 2017

08:54 – It was 57.3 (13C) when I took Colin out at 0715, partly cloudy. Barbara is off to the gym and store this morning.

Our weather is starting to get a lot more autumn-like. Most of the leaves are still green, but a lot of them are falling. Our forecast highs over the next week or so are in the 60’s, with lows in the 40’s and high 30’s.

Science kit sales are starting to taper off, as is typical for late September into October. This month’s revenues are just short of last September’s. We’ll probably end up selling only three or four fewer kits this month than a year ago. But this August was considerably bigger than August 2016, so on balance we’re actually doing better than last year.


Embarrassing prepper moment. I called Blue Ridge Co-op a couple days ago and asked them to come out and top off our propane tank. We last had that done back in April, I think, and I was curious to find out how much propane we’d used from our 330-gallon tank to run the cooktop in the intervening five months or so.

As it turned out, the answer was a massive 0.0 gallons. The guy pulled the hose down, but when he checked the overflow valve there was still liquid propane shooting out. So there was no point to even connecting up the filler hose.

I speculate that when they filled the tank in April, the temperatures were enough lower that simple thermal expansion of the liquid propane has accounted for all our usage. With the current higher temperatures, the liquid propane expanded to fill the available volume.

The good news is that my original calculations were apparently correct, although I questioned them at the time as being intuitively ridiculous. I calculated that that 300 gallon tank was sufficient to run our cooktop even under heavy use for between 10 and 14 years. Turns out that was probably a good estimate. So from now on I’ll have it topped off only every year or two.


Colin and I were surprised yesterday morning when we saw Al’s pickup pull into the drive. I guess he was short of things to do, so he drove up here to thin our turnips. He stuck around for an hour or so, thinned the turnips, and then turned around and drove back to Winston.

Our first attempt at turnips, planted this spring, failed miserably. They looked happy enough, but when Barbara pulled the first one it was full of worms. Same for the second, the third, and on and on. We’re hoping this autumn batch will do better.

Speaking of agricultural fails, here it is almost October and we have no apple crop to speak of. Nor any black walnuts. Last year, we had bushels of both. Next year may be a big year or a repeat of this year or something in between. Raising food crops is always a crap shoot.

I’m always puzzled when I hear from preppers who intend to raise their own food in a SHTF situation, but have never actually attempted to grow anything. Folks, that’s not how it works. If you’re counting on growing something, you’d better try it BEFORE you really need it. And even then there’s no guarantee that what works this time will work every time.

I’m also often puzzled by their choices of crops. It sounds like many of them are planning to eat mostly salads. I mean, stuff like lettuce and celery and peppers are fine as minor parts of the harvest, but they aren’t very calorie- and nutrient-dense. The bulk of your crop should be roots/tubers, legumes, and grain crops. Stuff like potatoes, yams, turnips, beets, parsnips, beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, wheat, oats, barley, amaranth, and so on. Stuff that produces large amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, and oils. And, most importantly, bulk calories. You can starve to death on celery.

We maintain only a small garden patch. That, and pots on the back deck. Last year and this year have been experimental, finding out what works and what doesn’t. We now know that some crops just don’t work here, notably broccoli. But some flourish, including several types of squash, green beans, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Tomatoes, onions, and peas do okay. Beets, not so much.

But the point is that we’re finding out what works for us, with our climate and our soil. In a real long-term emergency, we could expand our garden to 100 times or more the size that it is now. There would very likely be scaling issues, but at least we’d have some experience that would allow us to deal with those.

But if you’re a prepper who’s bought a supply of heirloom seeds and just stuck them on the shelf, you’re fooling yourself. You’re not much better off than someone who hasn’t even bought seeds. Thinking and planning is NOT the same as doing.