Category: decline and fall

Sun. June 4, 2023 – oh, I’m a lumberjack and I’m ok, I … wait, what?

Likely to be hot and humid today with about a 60% chance of rain.   It was humid as a sauna yesterday, both in Houston and here at the BOL.  My shirt was soaked, and my shorts were wet from the waistband to the hem.

After loading up the truck, I headed to my pickup.   Got a very nice grill for $40.   Really nice.  Basically the same as my grill at home but with a lot less wear, and the upgrade to built in lights.  The auctioneer, and judging by his comment while we loaded it, the seller, both seemed to be upset it went so cheap.  Wife cooked dinner on it last night and it worked perfectly.   Very happy.

I surveyed the downed tree, decided I would get my mower back together and cut the grass first, then tackle the tree since the tree guy is coming (eventually) and he can take care of any parts I don’t do.   That worked well.

When I did get to the tree, my chainsaw was cutting like butter.  Limbed the whole thing, stacked the small and crooked stuff in the burn pile, and cut what I could for firewood.   There is still about 16ft of trunk I’ll leave for the tree guy, and the standing part.   I might try to just leave the part that is still standing.  The pole saw (mini chainsaw on a stick) attachment for the string trimmer engine worked great too.   It make getting the high limbs easy, and made cutting the low ones that were holding the trunk in place a lot safer to cut, being 10ft away in case it rotated.

Even though it fell next to my garden, the potatoes survived.   One mound is thriving, the other 3 are surviving.   Berry bushes are not.   Peach tree still has green fruit growing, so the animals haven’t stripped it yet.   I hope we get some fruit from it this year.

Had a nice fire on the dock after playing games with wife and D2.   We played the LoTR version of Monopoly, and Rummicub.   Then I went down and watched the (not very) distant lightning.  Radio was pretty good, New Zealand had a segment produced by the BBC World service about religion and politics in the US that was interesting for the 45 minutes I caught.   No Cuban stations, and the ham bands were quiet with just the built in antenna.   Just before coming in, I caught about 20 minutes of the Worldwide Country Music show and heard some old school country, and some gospel.   Nice change of pace for me.

I’m hoping we don’t get rain today.  Don’t have a lot of time today before we need to head home.   I can’t stay an extra day as we have a swim meet and I have to get back out to my client’s to re-pull the cable.   Even a short time up here, mostly spent doing hard work, was nice.

Don’t forget to stack up some good times.   They will be real important if TSHTF.

nick

Sat. June 3, 2023 – on the road again, goin’ places that I’ve already been…

Hot and sticky today, with a chance of rain.   But I’m headed out of town, and I hope it will be just a bit cooler at the BOL.

I spent the morning yesterday doing a pickup, then headed to my client’s house to install the other end of the ‘wire replacement’ wireless link.

Which went better than it might have, but not well.   First I had to dig a bunch of holes trying to find the buried conduit.    I couldn’t back pull, nothing moved even a smidgen.   So I thought I’d find a corner in the run, open the conduit, pull the new wires in, and install a box where I broke it.  Yeah, for some reason, after I’d followed it for more than 30 ft, I still hadn’t found where it turned toward the gate control box.  I decided to just put my new enclosure on the pedestal side of the gate, and right at the gate, so I wouldn’t have to dig as much new trench.

Spent some time digging, and poking a fiberglas rod through the dirt, and got the cable run installed.  Couldn’t quite finish at the pedestal, because I needed a couple of right angle conduit fittings.  I built the enclosure out the night before, so once I had that mounted, I could terminate the cables… except that I pulled one pair, instead of cat cable.    In my defense, I didn’t even KNOW I had single pair cable in my stock, let alone the size and blue color of the cat I normally use… I’ll have to re-pull that on Monday.   I spent far too much time getting the nano set up, linked to the other end, and poking at networking issues.   Which all came down to using a ubiquiti EdgeRouter at the gate instead of a simple switch.   Once I swapped it for a Flex 4 port switch, I had wired internet at the gate.

There were other mis-steps involving PoE injectors at 48v instead of 24v, and configuring the automagic stuff in the wrong order, but it all got resolved.   I stopped at Lowe’s on the way home and got the conduit stuff I need, and I’ll bring home some liquidtite conduit and cat cable from the BOL on Sunday.  Nothing is as easy as it should be.

So today I’m doing a pickup this morning on my way to the BOL.   Wife and kid went up last night.   The location isn’t directly on the way, but it’s mostly in the right direction, and the grill is going to the BOL.   I’ll throw some other stuff in the truck to ’round out’ my pack and then I’m off like a prom dress…

I’ve been stacking up knowledge I probably won’t use again while it’s still relevant… But at least I’m stacking something.  You should too.

nick

Fri. June 2, 2023 – lotta driving today, and some work

Hot and humid.   Later, it will be really hot in the sun, probably when I’m out working in it.  It was certainly warm yesterday, although there was a bit of a cool breeze in the shade, later in the evening.

Did stuff yesterday, mostly auction related.  Went by one of my auctioneers and picked up what she didn’t want for the next sale.   She did want some more stuff that was appropriate for the theme so I’ll get that to her next week.

Went shopping for all the stuff I need at my client’s house to build the endpoint at the gate.   I had a suitable enclosure, but I needed unistrut to mount it, and the stuff to put a power receptacle inside it.   Got all that assembled and ready to go after dinner.   I will need to pick up a couple of things on the way, mainly a mount for the receiver Nano.

Before I can do that I need to pickup from one auction.  Unfortunately it’s in Sugar Land  which is the opposite direction from my client’s house.   It’s stuff for the BOL and a couple things for D2’s new hobby.  And maybe some Christmas lights, since I was going there anyway.

After I get that done, I’ll swap trucks and head to my client’s.   Should be able to get the new enclosure installed, and run what needs to be run, configure what needs to be configured, and get home before dark.

I was going to head to the BOL tonight, but I’ve got a pickup on the way, Saturday morning.   I scored a gas BBQ grill for the BOL for <$40.   It looks like the same Jenn Air I have at home, only in much better condition, with no evidence that it’s had all the parts replaced, like mine.   I love ours and hate the weak pathetic POS we have currently at the BOL.   It just doesn’t get hot, despite 5 burners.   The JennAir gets over 550F when I want tandoori chicken.  I knew the first one was a stopgap.  I hope this one performs as well as the one I’ve had for 15 years.  ( I have replaced the grates, the burners, and the “sear plates” or heat diverters.  Some several times.)

I’ll get it on the way up, and get to the BOL a bit later than I’d have liked, but with a new couch and a new grill.  It isn’t all about pex and septic systems.  Creature comforts count too.  Especially in the “happy wife, happy life” equation.

Stack up some stuff, then stack some more.   Could be that prices on good stuff will fall, as people pull back and have trouble making the ends meet.  I had very little competition for a really nice ($1200 new) grill, and leather sofa.  Perhaps there will be other bargains.   There is always opportunity for the prepared person.

nick

Thurs. June 1, 2023 – Summer time is here!

Hot and humid, chance of rain.   So “summer in Houston”.   Bet it’s pretty much the same for the next 2-3 months, gradually getting hotter at 8am until Fall starts again.   It did break the mold a bit today, as some weather blew in and there was a cooler edge to the wind at 5pm.   Some lightning too.  Never got worse than that though.

Did mostly auction stuff yesterday.   Took a while to get caught up.   Did some small things around the house but nowhere near what I should have done.    Did get a message from my neighbors at the BOL.   Sometime after I left a wind storm came through and knocked over most of one of the trees.   It’s in my garden, not the road or the  house, or worse, the neighbor’s house, so it can stay there until I get back up there with a chainsaw.   It’s a pretty big chunk of oak tree, so I’ll get to keep some of the firewood, and maybe my tree guy will have to revise his estimate a little lower, now that I’m cleaning up that particular tree instead of him.  It left a trunk about 15ft high, with a small portion of the rest of the trunk above that, like a sapling growing out of a stump.

I also got a message from the gate guy at  my client’s place.  He does need a hard wired ‘net connection at the gate after all.  I’ll need to finish installing the other nano as a ‘cable replacement’ and put an enclosure and small switch at the gate.   I might try to do that today, although my client is returning home from a trip today.   Tomorrow would be better for me, him, and the gate guy, but now I need to head back up to the BOL and clean up storm debris.

The phrase “it’s always something” comes to mind.  And so does the realization that I need to get off my azz and power through some of my backlog to get close to caught up.

Add to the regular list, and I’ll be even busier than I pretend to be…

You can’t stack up time, but you can stack up some things that will save you time later.   Having what you need close to hand is a force multiplier.   I just got my chainsaw running, and now I get to use it for realz… I’ll should put on the wire screen face shield and the cut-stop chaps too.  It sure would be silly to hurt myself with the proper PPE sitting on the shelf in the garage…

Stack what you need to do the jobs that are most likely to pop up, before they pop up.

nick

Wed. May 31, 2023 – week’s half over… I’m just getting started.

Cool, damp, and warming later…  that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  It was sunny and hot at the BOL this morning.   By noon it was sweaty hot.  And damp.   Last night, Houston had distant thunder, and the smell of rain, but I didn’t notice any  actual rain before I went to bed.  I am hoping for clear today.   Stuff to do, stuff to do.

I slept a bit later than I wanted to, and had to stretch and warm up a bit before I could really move well, so I didn’t get as much done in the morning as I’d have liked.   Well, if I liked it more, I would have done it, right?   Got the lawnmower back together.  Didn’t get the mower deck installed.  I haven’t done the maintenance on it, and it might have a bad spindle that needs replacing.   Definitely needs blades, which I should have somewhere…

Got everything buttoned up and headed home.   I wonder if my sense of ‘home’ will flip, and when?  It’s awfully nice up there.  Did my pickup on the way home.

Today I need to unload and put away some stuff I brought back (and I forgot a big item, but it’s not critical.)  Then I really need to knock off a few of my list items.   I think dealing with the food storage and spoilage should probably be a priority this week.   Getting my storage organized and some stuff listed would help too.  Same ol’ same ol’.

There is a lot of repetition in prepping, a lot of iteration…   It can lead to burn out, and a lack of motivation, at least judging by my own experience.  Don’t let it stop you though.   Keep plugging away, even if it’s just small things.  I’m trying to do just that.

And stack something, even if it’s just a box of bandaids.   It adds up.

nick

Tues. May 30, 2023 – some work, then home…

Cool and very damp, with a chance of rain.   Yesterday was nice, for values of nice that include high humidity, with overcast later, culminating in a quick inch or two of rain.  It stopped after a couple hours and I did get to sit on the dock and spin the dial on the shortwave.

DX was good with just the basic antenna.   NewZealand was loud and clear on 15mhz for at least a few hours.   Cuba was silent at 1030pm but opened up after midnight.    Fun to spin the dial from 2.500 to 21.000 and see what I can hear, especially with just the radio’s telescoping antenna.

It did remain mostly cloudy, so no observing.   I was hoping for at least one good clear night this trip.

 

I got a bunch of small projects done before the rain hit, and even got in some fishing.  Had a chat with another neighbor about hard times.   He had a very extensive garden a couple of years ago when he’d lost his job, and kept most of the full timers in veg for the summer.  Said he was ready to do it again if needed.  His biggest concern is access to meds.    Lots of folks out here are ‘tore up and worn out.’   SHTF is very physical and there will be a lot of folks in bad shape when their meds run out.  There are a lot of folks that would have a hard time with the hard work, even now.   His biggest emphasis was on the community banding together and sharing the load and the resources, particularly skills.    Since he’s lived up here his whole life, his ties and local knowledge run deep.

It would be very interesting to see how RBT’s plan might have changed as he settled into his community.   I don’t think that “volunteering to be the local wizard” would work very well, without years of laying the groundwork, building the relationships, and getting to be a known quantity.   It’s becoming more and more clear to me that if we are facing a rapid (or even slow but severe) decline, who you surround yourself with is probably the most important choice you can make.   The really stone cold b!tch of it is that the people most likely to get by, are also some of the least willing to accept and trust newcomers.   If you are dropping into a community, you better have some VERY high demand skills, if you haven’t built the relationships.


 

Today I’ll do a few things to wrap up, weather permitting.   Main concern is getting the lawn tractor back together and back in it’s shed.   Then any little thing I can do before cleaning up and heading home, I’ll knock out.

I need to pass through north Houston before 3pm to make a pickup, so I’ve got my schedule set.

Stack up the things, and the skills, but REALLY get busy on relationships.

nick

 

(if your BOL is in a community where someone can say, “One of my second cousins’ wife’s best friends was the one who told me about the boat for sale…” you need a champion, and you’ve got your work cut out for you.)

Sun. May 28, 2023 – work happened, but more is in order…

68F and a bit chilly early, but warming quickly once the sun does it’s thing.  Yesterday got pretty warm, well into the 90s in the sunlight.  High 80s in the shade.  Very gentle breeze.

Perfect weather for a burn pile.   It rained recently so there wasn’t much risk of fire spreading, and little to no wind meant I could finally burn some of the root balls we dug up to get the septic in place.    I also had a lot of small branches after I cut down 2  small dead ornamental trees.  The freeze killed them  and they weren’t coming back.   The third small tree went on the HOA lot burn pile for later.   It had to come out to provide access to the patio.

Readers who have been following along can infer that my replacement chainsaw parts came in and worked.   The chinese bar and chain fit, and cut very well.  I also finished up with the string trimmer, and blew the debris clear with an attachment for the trimmer’s power unit.   I’ve got a pole saw attachment too, but I didn’t need to use it yet.  I really like swapping attachments for the unit.   Don’t know if the Craftsman branded engine will hold up, but it’s running great so far, and very handy.   I’ve got a blower, pole saw, string trimmer (two actually) and mini rototiller.

The potatoes I planted are growing, but the berry bushes don’t seem to be.    The rest of the garden looked like a lawn with all the nut grass.   Since it’s so late, I might just cover the whole plot with black plastic sheet, and try to kill the nutgrass for next season.   Haven’t decided yet.  I did cut it to the soil with the string trimmer.  So far the deer seem to have left the potatoes alone.   They didn’t even eat the loose potatoes I threw in the yard.   Maybe I’ll plant a whole lotta potatoes next time.   I dug up some of the wild onions from the lot next door.  I will see what I can do with them today.

And I’ll be doing more stuff from the list throughout the day.   I feel like I got a lot done, gotta take the meds and keep pushing.   It may not be the big stuff, but it all still needs doing.

So I’ll keep stacking up chores.   And knocking them down, if only a bit at a time.

Stack it up!

n

Sat. May 27, 2023 – a beautiful day

Cool but clear, 68F when I went to bed, and I’m expecting the same when I wake this am.  Damp, of course.   It was 82F in Houston last night, but only 72F on the water.   Sunny and hot during the day.  I think today will likely be the same.

Yesterday was weird.   I was feeling stressed and disconnected all morning.  Make several errors that I don’t usually make.  Took forever to get out of town, and then there were half a dozen accidents, one serious, on the way to the BOL.  Oh, and a grass fire on the freeway right of way too.   Heavy traffic in the usual places.

But I finally got here, and it was beautiful.   So I cut the grass.   Broke the mower.   I’ll fix it.   There is a bushing on the steering column that keeps the gears in alignment that was so worn the gear stripped a little bit.    It wasn’t a problem until it was…   No way to lube it, so I’m thinking it normally outlasts the mower.  Not in this case.   If I can find the part, I can easily replace it.  The damaged gear on the column is a bit harder.   I can shim it (remove the end play) and use a different part of the gear to contact the rack, if the bushing will hold it in alignment.

If I can’t find the part, it will be easy enough to make a replacement.   I’ll clean up the gear as best I can, and run with that.  It’s always something.   Worst case, I buy a new mower.  This one came with the house (we did buy it, but at a pretty good discount.  I would like to get some more use from it if possible.)

We did have a fire and roast s’mores.   Conditions were variable low clouds, so no observing.   Maybe tonight.   Shortwave had a lot of fading and noise.   Still nice to sit by the fire and listen to rock and roll oldies.

X1 is with us for the weekend and seems to be coming out of her shell a bit.  She wasn’t shy but there was a reserve.  She seems more natural this weekend.  Hope it’s helping.  Kids and wife were all in the water and out on the kayaks, so that was nice.    I can’t imagine we’ll get too many more weekends that aren’t sticky hot before summer starts in earnest.

My plan for the day is projects.  Always projects.   And maybe a little fishing.

Stacking up skills.   Do something this week you wouldn’t normally do.  Especially if it’s fixing something, cooking something, or learning something.

nick

Lot of people here for the long weekend.  I hope to meet some more of the neighbors.   Meatspace, and meet-space.

 

 

 

Fri. May 26th, 2023 – headed to the BOL… to spend the long weekend, not because the rad sensor alarmed…

Clear and damp, with a little coolness, rapidly heating up.   It was only 72F when I put the kids on the bus yesterday, but it got warmer throughout the day.   I’m glad I didn’t have to get in the attic at my client’s house, but using the ladder in the yard was a bit sweaty.   I think today will be even warmer, but maybe some of the humidity will blow out.

There are a lot of mosquitos this year, and they are even biting me.   They normally don’t, and if they do, it doesn’t leave a mark.  Wonder what it’s gonna be like at the lake?

Which is where I’m headed later.   Have to get loaded up and make a pickup on my way out of town.   The auction had the wrong times listed, and I thought I would be able to make it.   I guess it’s good I didn’t drive up last night…  although I would have liked to start the day at the BOL, not driving.

Did get some stuff done yesterday.  Got the NVR to display image from the existing cams.  Well, mostly.   I may even be able to re-use a couple  to extend coverage with the new system.  Can’t order the cams until next week because B&H closed for a long holiday.  Memorial Day weekend must coincide with a Jewish holiday this year.   Maybe every year, but I never noticed…

In any case, I’ll be back out at the site to swap out cams in a week or two.  In the mean time, at least the NVR is recording.

I’ll be taking a load of stuff up with me.  Mostly not food, but I’ll add a couple of buckets if I can.   I saw a pair of rats on the patio yesterday.  They’ve eaten all the stuff they can get into, except the stuff that exploded, so they aren’t wrecking more, but I’ll refill the poison baits anyway.   Cleaning up that whole area has been pushing down the list for a week or more, but that was when I though it was a possum in the mess.   Possums I can live with, rats, no.   So it’s back to the saga of the rats for me.  Good thing I bought those buckets of bait blocks.

Stack some rodent and pest control.  They’ll be increasing as city services decrease, and you’ll be on your own.   Remember when there was nothing in the stores?  That will happen again.

Stack all the things!

nick

Thur. May 25, 2023 – ..until morale improves. Then the REAL fun begins.

Cool start to the day but should be sunny and hot later.   Yesterday turned out ok for us, no rain, no bright sun for most of the day.   It was a bit sunny in the later afternoon.  Hoping for similar today, but with a bit more sun.

Did my two pickups on the south side of town.   Found a neighborhood I didn’t expect, with a very ‘out in the country’ feel, right in between the ghetto and the ‘hood.   Big lots, old homes, real country boys… guy had a bunch of great older reference books on “rebuild society” topics.  Lots of tools, and clearly enjoyed his hobbies.   The other pickup was sort of “general merch” and is always good for some household item.

The pickup nearest to me was a heavy steel door for the BOL, a bookcase for D2, and some other misc. stuff for some other projects.   Pickup truck is about 1/3 loaded, waiting for the rest before heading up this weekend.

And I’ll load up later, as we haven’t decided whether to head up tonight or tomorrow.

Before that, I’ll  be spending some more time trying to get at least the expensive PTZ camera to work with the new NVR.   Even at my hourly rate, it’s worth poking at it for a while.   I can do some at home, but will really need to head out to the site to find out if I can make it work.

It would be nice to do some more cleanup and organizing this morning, but work slipped to today, so it is what it is.

I’ll be taking some more stuff to stack at the BOL.    If the SHTF, “they” will definitely come looking for “it” for whatever value of “it” you like.   If people are hungry, they’ll look for food.  If jones-ing, they’ll be looking for drugs or booze.   If it’s biggov, they’ll be looking for control, and we know what they’ll be coming for.   Split your stacks up.   Hide your tangibles.   Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.   Fallback positions are a good thing.  So is ‘hiding in plain sight.’   Harden your heart, and your house.  Be prepared to degrade gracefully.

And stack, what you can and while you can.

nick

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