Sunday, 8 January 2017

09:50 – It was 2.7F (-16.3C) when I let Colin out this morning. He ran out, peed on the bird feeder pole and well casing, and ran back in. I’m not sure what the new-fangled, politically-correct official wind chill is out there, but I’d estimate the actual wind chill at around -40F (-40C).

Ordinarily, I take Colin out for his morning constitutional, but yesterday and today Barbara did that. With as much snow and ice as we have on the ground and my balance issues, even if I took Colin off-leash, it’s very likely I’d fall.

Actually, it turns out that falling is an issue for Colin. When Barbara took him out, he plopped down on the snow. At first, we both thought he was telling her he wanted to play, but it soon became obvious that he had actually fallen and was having trouble getting up or standing. She lifted him by his tail, which we’ve done with all our dogs as they’ve gotten older. Colin turns six years old in about a month, and it seems that he’s developing a minor problem with his hips. So we’ll be very careful with him, particularly when there’s snow or ice on the ground.

I’d forgotten to mention that I’d gotten email from Jen about the ten-day readiness exercise they ran from before Christmas to New Year’s Day. She didn’t have much to report, because everything went pretty much without a hitch. Although this was their longest exercise to date, it’s the fourth or fifth one they’ve run and, as Jen says, they’ve pretty much got all the kinks worked out by now. They heated with wood, pumped well water with solar power, and cooked and baked LTS food and heated water with propane. As Jen said, although they had only a few snow flurries, it was pretty much like a snowed-in weekend with the family all present.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the other day Barbara’s comments about grocery shopping. Ordinarily, she makes a weekly supermarket run on Fridays on her way home from the gym. Because of the winter storm forecast, she decided to head to Lowe’s on Thursday to do her weekly grocery shopping. In Winston, it would have been a madhouse, crammed with people stocking up for the emergency, and the shelves empty of bread, milk, and eggs. Here in Sparta, it was just like an ordinary supermarket trip. No more shoppers than usual, and the shelves fully stocked. For people who live up in the mountains, a winter storm warning is just normal for this time of year. People don’t need to rush out and stock up because they’re already stocked up.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

09:43 – Barbara picked up Bonnie, our next-door neighbor, at 9:00 to drive her up to the Walmart Super Center in Galax, Virginia. Bonnie is almost 90 years old and doesn’t get out much, so this will be a real treat for her.

About two minutes after Barbara left, Lori pulled in the drive to deliver/pick-up the mail. Lori’s daughter is home from college for the week. Lori said she’d finished repackaging the current batch of LTS food, and volunteered that she loved watching the oxygen absorbers dent in the 2-liter bottles. I’m not the only one who takes pleasure in small things.

The Lowe’s delivery truck is supposed to show up today with our gas cooktop. Eric with the Blue Ridge Co-op called yesterday afternoon to schedule installation of the propane tank and connecting the cooktop. They’re kind of backed up this time of year. He said the next date they had available was the morning of December 9th, so we grabbed it. It looks like we’ll be cooking dinner that day on the gas cooktop.

I did look around for a gas oven, but the only ones I could find that could operate without electricity were commercial models that cost several thousand dollars. There’s no way we’re spending that much. If we do have a long-term power failure, we can use the gas cooktop for baking by using a Coleman Camp Oven or a large Dutch oven.

Barbara took Colin to the vet yesterday to have him looked at. One of his ears was bothering him, and he’d torn a claw on one of his rear paws. A week or so ago, we’d tried cleaning out his ear with dilute vinegar and cotton balls, but it was still bothering him, so we decided to take him to the vet. Their charges are extremely low: $12 for the office visit and another $12 to swab out his ear and do a microscopic stain/exam. The medication they provided was $38, so Barbara got out of there for just over $60. Down in Winston, it would probably have been $250 or $300.

While Barbara was gone, UPS delivered four cases of quart wide-mouth canning jars. When she returned and noticed them stacked up in the foyer, she asked what they were. I told her “another four dozen quart wide-mouth canning jars,” and she said there was no way she was going to be canning food. I didn’t tell her that I’d renamed our new 23-quart pressure canner “Ma Kettle”. To be fair, I also renamed our 9-quart cast-iron camping Dutch oven “Pa Kettle”.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

09:38 – We had another monsoon yesterday afternoon. It dropped more than an inch (2.5 cm) of rain on us in about 20 minutes, accompanied by very high winds and lots of lightning where there was only a fraction of a second gap between the flash and the boom. Colin was beyond terrified. He’s a high-attention dog all the time, but heavy rain, high winds, and lightning/thunder scare the hell out of him. I finally went back and stretched out on the bed, where he went into four-paw drive and climbed up on top of me. I went out to my desk. He hid under the desk for about 30 seconds and then forced his way up between my legs and climbed up into my lap. I wouldn’t mind so much, except that he also claws me the whole time, demanding that I do something about the problem. After the rain, wind, and thunder slacked off, the sirens started. I suspect there was some significant property damage, and maybe some injuries. Every time he hears a siren, Colin heads for the front door or windows to bark at it. If it’s particularly close, he does synchronized howling.

Some people are unaware that one can actually starve to death even with an unlimited supply of wheat, rice, and corn or foods made from those grains. The problem is that the amino acid profile of grains is low in some essential amino acids (those that the human body cannot synthesize from other amino acids). The same is true of beans, but the essential amino acids that beans are short of are present in abundance in grains, and vice versa. That’s why all cultures, going back to prehistory, have eaten grains and beans in combination. Together, they provide complete protein.

Meats, eggs, milk, and other animal-based foods include complete protein, and may be used to “fill out” the protein profile of beans or, more commonly, grains. We store a lot of canned meats, but in a long-term emergency additional meat will be harder to come by than beans. Also, obviously, animal-based proteins are much more costly and difficult to store than are vegetable-based proteins.

The problem is that most citizens of the first world are used to getting their complete protein by combining grains and meat. Beans generally play a relatively minor role in our diets. People generally prefer to eat what they’re used to eating, so few people would regard a combination of grains and beans to be appetizing.

I mentioned this issue in passing to Jen, and told her that we aren’t storing any dry beans, although we have about 100 cans of Bush’s Best Baked Beans. We don’t store dry beans, because neither Barbara nor I knows how to make a bean-based dish appetizing. I got email from Jen yesterday with a recipe she suggested we try. She and her family felt much the same about eating beans as we do, but she said this recipe turned out extremely well. She says the herbs and spices are what makes this dish worth eating. This recipe makes enough to feed four to six people. We’ll probably halve it for our first test run.

Bean Gloppita (Feeds four to six)

2 cans (15-ounce each) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups long-grain white rice, uncooked
6 cups of water
2 Tbsp of olive oil
1 cup of fresh chopped onion (or equivalent rehydrated dry onion)
1 cup of fresh bell peppers (or equivalent rehydrated dry bell peppers)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped (or equivalent rehydrated dry garlic flakes)
2 tsp of chili powder
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp of dried oregano
½ tsp of dried coriander
½ tsp of ground red pepper
¼ cup of shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

1. Bring five cups of water to a boil. Stir in rice, return to a boil, turn down heat, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until water is absorbed.

2. Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add fresh or rehydrated bell peppers and onion. Cook until tender, about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute or two. Add the remaining one cup of water and all of the remaining ingredients other than the cheese. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, or until rice is ready.

Serve bean gloppita over hot rice and sprinkle cheddar on top.

FedEx showed up yesterday with three more #10 cans of Augason Farms dehydrated potato shreds from Walmart. Those three cans are equivalent to about 10.4 30-ounce packages of the Ore-Ida frozen shredded hashbrowns, but at a total cost of $24.72 plus tax, versus $31.10 for 10.4 packages of the Ore-Ida frozen shreds. (Walmart has since increased the price from $8.24/can a week ago to $9.77 now; they bounce prices up and down regularly.)

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

09:33 – We got several hundred containers filled and labeled yesterday. More of the same the rest of this week. And another 3,000 bottles and caps showed up yesterday, just in time.

We’re getting a bit concerned about Colin. He turned five in February, which makes him a young middle-aged dog. We’re playing a lot of frisbee with him, and I noticed the other day that he was sometimes running with his back feet together. That may be just the way he chose to run that time, but it may also indicate hip problems, which Border Collies are prone to. The other night when I took him out last time to pee, instead of lifting his leg on the well casing as usual, he squatted like a girl dog. It may be nothing, or something minor like a muscle pull, but we’re going to keep an eye on him.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

08:14 – Barbara has been gone for three days, but Colin and I are making do. She called around dinner time yesterday. She’s relaxing and having a good time, which is the important part. Also, Colin is behaving much better than he usually does when Barbara’s away for a few days. He’s still pestering for attention, but not as much as I expected.

He’s a very needy Border Collie, and Barbara recognized that the first time we visited him in his litter. All the other puppies clustered around our feet, playing and nibbling on each other’s paws and ears. Colin, then named Eddie, was off by himself. Barbara recognized immediately that unless someone who was very familiar with Border Collies adopted this puppy, he was very likely to end up in BC Rescue. So she picked him and he picked her. As it turns out, we agree that Colin is the smartest BC we’ve ever had, which is saying something. People think I’m kidding, but I’m entirely serious. A smart dog uses deductive logic. All of our BCs, Colin more so than the others, also uses inductive logic. It’s obvious from watching his decision-making process.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

10:23 – As usual, Barbara read the paper this morning and then had breakfast, while Colin pestered me mercilessly to throw his toys for him. Then Barbara came into the den and asked what we were working on today. The two of them are a lot alike, wanting to work constantly. I told Barbara we both deserved a day off, so we won’t do much work on kit stuff today.

When I walked Colin, there were two or three dozen cows and calves near our back fence, including one calf that was lying right up against the fence. Colin did his usual, stalking toward them, staring at the calf as he approached it. Then he did something he does frequently when stalking squirrels, but never with the cattle. He apparently thought he was close enough to pounce the calf, so he made a dash toward it. Naturally, the calf went instantly from watchful to alarmed. It sprang to its feet and took off running away from the fence. Its mother and several other cows took off running with it. It wasn’t exactly a stampede, but there were several cows moving very quickly away from the threat. Those cows may outweigh Colin by a factor of 10 or more, but they know they’re prey and they recognize a wolf when they see one.

I didn’t yell at Colin. I can’t blame a herding dog for being a herding dog. But I really don’t want him bothering the cows, both for his sake and for theirs.

Wednesday, 4 May

09:31 – Forty-six years ago today. Four dead in Ohio. Allison B. Krause, Jeffrey Glenn Miller, William Knox Schroeder, and Sandra Lee Scheuer. Kids minding their own business. Murdered by the government. Never forget.

Barbara is spending the day in Winston-Salem, running errands and meeting the HVAC company tech at the old house so they can do a system check and replace the central filter. Colin and I are on our own for today. He’s watching the cows. There are a couple dozen along our back fence, including several babies who aren’t much bigger than he is.

More science kit stuff today. I’ll be running more labels for bottles and making up solutions. Barbara labeled about 1,000 bottles yesterday while she watched House of Cards on Netflix streaming.

It now looks pretty certain that it’ll be Trump vs. Clinton in November, two candidates whom almost no one likes, including the rank and file of their own parties. My guess is that Trump will beat Clinton. A lot of voters hate him, but the same is true of Clinton, so it’s a matter of voters from both parties holding their noses and voting for whichever candidate they hate less. How did we get to this point?

12:16 – Colin just took me out to get some exercise. For me, not for him.

As we went out the door, I threw the Frisbee as far as I could toward the treeline on our southern boundary. Colin ran after it and caught it in the air a few yards short of the tree line. He then lay down and waited for me to walk over to him. When I got about five feet from him, he grabbed the Frisbee and ran over to the north side of the property, 150 yards or so away. He lay down, dropped the Frisbee, and waited for me to make my way over to him. When I was about five feet from him, he picked it up and ran back over to the south side of the yard. Rinse and repeat. This dog has the shittiest play skills, not just of any dog I’ve ever had or known, but of any dog I’ve ever heard of. What other dog, ever, doesn’t know that when his human throws a toy he’s supposed to go get it, bring it back, and drop it to be thrown again? Colin absolutely demands full participation. He does the same thing in the house. I’ll throw the ball. He runs and picks it up momentarily, drops it where it was, and runs back to demand that I go get it and bring it back for him.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

10:35 – Since Barbara was taking Colin to the vet for his damaged claw anyway, she decided to have them do his annual checkup, which was due next month. They did the checkup, gave him boosters of his vaccines, and otherwise did everything that needed to be done. The total bill? $28. At our vet in Winston, it would probably have cost five times that.

Email from Jen. Her husband had lunch with one of the other vets in his practice. She mentioned her concern about the state of the world and the country, and the conversation shifted toward being prepared for emergencies. Jen’s husband was noncommittal, but did say that he and Jen were also very concerned about the state of things. The other vet and her husband are early 30’s and have two young children. They’re also Mormons. She said that her primary worry right now is that they live in-town in a condo, and don’t have space for the supplies they’d like to store.

Jen and her husband have of course socialized with this young family, and they all like each other. Last night, Jen and her husband talked about letting the other vet know that they are serious preppers, and inviting the other family to store supplies at their place, with the idea that if things do get really bad the young family could relocate to their place for the duration. Jen says they see a lot of upsides to such an arrangement, not least that it would add another medically-skilled person and boost their adult count to at least eight people and potentially more with the other family that Jen already has made arrangements with. So they’re going to talk it over with the other family about inviting the young vet’s family to join their group.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

10:09 – A little excitement this morning. Barbara was trimming Colin’s claws and got a bit too deep on one. We didn’t have any styptic powder available, so at the recommendation of the vet, Barbara used some cornstarch. That didn’t stop the bleeding, so Barbara just took Colin over to see the vet. I’d actually thought about taking him to the vet last week, so Colin could meet them and they could meet him. We need to get a relationship set up with them anyway.

The electrician hasn’t returned my call yet. It’s not urgent, but if I don’t hear back from him in the next day or two, I’ll call a different electrician.

As I watch the level of civility between the Democrats and Republicans continue to degrade, I’m afraid we’re reaching the point where the two are no longer opponents, but actual enemies. We’re already seeing political violence, and we’re still in the primary season. How much worse is it likely to get in the run-up to the general election in November? We’re not at the point where Weimar Germany found itself in the late 1920’s, with street battles between gangs of Communist thugs and gangs of Nazi thugs, but with BLM leaders and other prog proxies calling for actions like the wholesale slaughter of cops and white civilians, we’re not all that far away from it, either. The inner cities are tinderboxes, and it wouldn’t take much of a spark to set off an inferno. I’m very happy that Barbara and I are well away from the Triad, with its population of 1,000,000+, many of whom are underclass. And if the November general election is widely perceived to have been stolen by one or the other party, things may get lively.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

11:05 – We bought a new Whirlpool washer/dryer set yesterday at Blevins, the local equivalent of Home Depot. We drove straight home, and the delivery truck showed up about half an hour later to install the new ones and haul away the old ones. The washer is HE, but top-load. I’d heard enough bad things about front-load HE washers that I wouldn’t have one on a bet. The user manual was full of warnings that we could expect a completely different experience from using our old agitator-based washer. Certainly, it makes a lot of different sounds than the old one did, and it takes two or three times longer to wash a load. That’s not an issue for us. I can run a load of laundry any time. Both the washer and dryer did the job, which is all I care about.

Colin has been a PITA the last couple of nights, walking around whining and whimpering. I finally yelled at him about 2:00 this morning. I scared him and Barbara. She thinks he hears deer or whatever outside at night. We do want him to be alert and warn us when there’s an intruder, so we need to get him to understand that deer don’t count as intruders. This morning, there were about 30 cows along the fence at the back fence. Colin stared at them. A couple of them kept an eye on him. He is, after all, a wolf. But mostly they just ignored him standing 20 or 30 meters away on the other side of the fence.