Fri. June 21, 2019 – already Friday again, jeez

82F and 90%RH. Never got a drop of rain yesterday, hope today goes the same. Openweathermap (henceforth OWM) has our high at 97 or 98F. It’ll be much hotter than that here in my driveway.

The march to war continues–

This looks like classic Trump to me, promise some outrageous thing, let everyone freak about it, then offer the compromise. We’ll see. I’d prefer not to have a nuclear Iran, and the weaker they are, the better for stability in the middle east.

Lots of kid activities this week so not as many preps as I’d like, and I’m getting ready to head back to Chicago to help my mom with selling her house. I’ll probably be there a week.

The little tiny caterpillars were back with a vengeance and ate all the leaves off one grape vine and most off the other vine. It did reveal on bunch of grapes, which I split with littlest child. They were tasty with thick skins. I sprayed them with the thuricide and I hope the vines recover for next year. Grapes are a huge PITA.

We have one little apple growing on the tree, and one orange is still clinging to its tree too.

Peppers are still producing but tomatoes aren’t showing any fruit. Cukes and zukes haven’t died yet. The stems usually spit open at the ground level and get eaten by ants. I’ve been hitting them with different things hoping to find something that will get them thru the summer. Seems to be working so far. The plants in the one raised bed are still slowly bleaching to white and dying. No time to investigate that further. It MUST be an issues with the soil.

I did add another bucket of rice and some more cans to the stack. I can tell the hand warmers I’m using as O2 absorbers are working because the buckets ‘dent’ in.

I’ve mentioned it before but I think prepping to make tortillas/pita/naan/ or some other flat bread makes more sense than risen breads. They take less time, effort, and fuel. The staples of poor rural people and indigenous people the world over are refined by long history to be efficient in all those areas. (that root you have to smash for hours being an exception necessitated by a lack of alternatives.)

Someone mentioned that my SWAG at a couple of months food for my family was missing some things… yup. It was. There were LOTS of things missing from the list, but it was intended to show that it doesn’t have to be hard, or rocket science to stack a good amount of food. Also it’s what MY family (and by extension, most families I know) will eat. (If I was hispanic or german, the list would be different (and have more pickled stuff on it if german))

There are actually canned beans in the list (red, black, refried,bbq, drunken (borracho), and several others are on my shelves.) For preps, I prefer canned beans to dried. The water is already in the can. The cans are safe from rats and other vermin. The liquid in the can can be used as ‘sauce’ over rice. Of course, they are more expensive than dried beans, but they can be eaten cold from the can, only need to be warmed up to make them tasty, have flavor already added, and are generally easier, quicker, and thrifty with fuel.

If your family already eats chick peas, or dried beans, by all means store them in your preps! I wouldn’t want the list to be seen as EX-clusive. You should always feel free to go beyond or tweak for personal preference. For example, someone else mentioned canned potatoes. I have canned potatoes from a couple different makers with different styles of potato in them. I really like one particular can of sliced new potatoes. I’ve served them as a side dish lots of times. We don’t eat many potatoes though, and most canned versions don’t taste that good to me. I did list pouches of instant potato though. The name brand is really good, especially the varieties with added cheese and other flavors. If we had a real ‘no shit, hit the store for one last run’ event, besides all the overlooked cans, I’d grab bags of potatoes and onions. They store well (up to a year in good conditions) are cheap and versatile. But we personally don’t eat them often, so I usually only keep a couple of pounds of heritage baby potatoes in the pantry, and 10 pounds of onion… we do eat a lot of onion.

And I have to get the wife and kids out the door so I need to continue this later….

what did you do to prep this week?


Sun. April 7, 2019 – weather looks ok

71F and 99%RH. Looks like some sun poking through.

Well then, plan for the day is yard and garden. I guess I need to figure out what I’m planting this year.

Carrots did well. Beets did well in the window boxes, maybe I’ll do a bed this time. Turnips and radishes showed some promise but I let the soil stay dry too long. I’ve got what I need to add irrigation to the window boxes this year. My dad had irrigation for his actual window boxes for flowers, I guess I can figure out some drip irrigation for my veg.

Zukes did really well in one bed, but crossed with the cukes and the result wasn’t good eating. I think I’ll just try zukes there this year.

And I’ll do some pepper plants in pots, like most years.

Maybe I’ll try a tomato or two, and just hope it doesn’t get too hot.

All subject to change and availability of course.

What’s going into you gardens?? Who’s going to try containers this year? AT LEAST get some herbs going…


Sun. Aug. 12, 2018 – got some stuff done, not enough

Currently 80F and 80% at 8am. Yuck.

Off and on spots of rain yesterday but I got the lawn at the rental cut. We have an application in, so hopefully that gets rented. If it does, I’ve got to empty the garage, hang an additional smoke detector, and change the locks.

Today is work here day.

Grapevine is going NUTS. This is another variety from the one that fruited in early summer, hope it might fruit soon. That would be a happy accident if I got a summer and fall variety…

Zukes are all done. Failed to flourish, rotted at the stem.

Fall acorn squash got eaten back to the stem, and never grew beyond the transplant size.

Herbs went nuts. Got some nice sweet banana peppers. Beans and peas turned white, then died. Started at one end of the bed, and spread until they were all dried straw. That was weird.

Nothing from the peach tree. One fruit on the established orange tree. Nothing on the established or potted grapefruit trees. Apple trees finally leafed in and are looking health, if not vigorous (I didn’t expect anything this year)

Bumper crop on the pecan tree, but I’ve never gotten more than a couple after the fungus and the squirrels got done. We’ll see about this year.

I better figure out what I want to plant for fall/spring and get too it. My fear is that I have to get rid of that horrible miracle gro raised bed “soil” entirely. What a horror show that stuff is. NOTHING grows in it, not even weeds, and water will not penetrate it past 1/2″. Def NOT RECOMMENDED.

Kids are stirring, so I better get started on breakfast…


Sun. July 1, 2018 – open

Whew, slept in. Kids are now fed, the dad is fed, the wife is fed, and the kids are squabbling so the dad is also fed up! (now there is crying)

Only 96F at 11am, so not quite following Nick’s rule of tens for a hot day in Houston…. 70 at 7am, 80 at 8am, 90 at 9am, 100 by 10am…

Got a lot of work done at the rental but ran out of material and still have to go back today. Wife got all the remaining cleaning done. We should have it back on the rental market in a week. Pure laziness on my part to have let it go this long. We’ve lost 10k in rental revenue while dragging our feet. That was super stupid. I have a line on a management company with a very affordable rate. If they are taking customers, I think we’ll sign up. This was super stupid. (did I mention this was stupid?)

Drank half a gallon of gatoraid while working, and another half gallon of water and tea before and after. Then drank some more. Peed once and woke thirsty. No headache or hangover today though.

WRT the previous discussion on revenue and wages being down, my ebay sales continue to limp along. I have never had sales this low since starting to take it seriously. I do have a bunch of high value inventory to list, but almost nothing is selling, my views have dropped way off, and my watchers are mostly at zero. I don’t know if it is the economy in general, my vacation hiatus killing my search results placement, or the move to an ebay ‘store’. I think I’ll be calling ebay’s business ‘consultant’ next week to ask about my store move, since that seems most likely to be the culprit.

Garden is growing. The bush and pole beans are growing like crazy, with neat little purple flowers, but no beans yet. Zukes are still hanging in there, with flowers but no fruit yet. The grape vine that didn’t fruit yet has suddenly started growing like crazy. One was red, the other purple, both table varieties. I think this one is the purple. Maybe it has later fruit? Got a shot glass full of blueberries, and was happy to save that much. No peaches again this year. Beets are doing well. Onions seem to be getting bigger, so I’m letting them grow. Would be starving if I needed the garden to eat. Something to keep in mind.

Finished reading the Oregon Trail cookbook. You can make a lot of different things from flour, corn meal, bacon, fat, sugar, and salt. You can make a cake with almost no ingredients. Not sure that any of it was much more than ‘iron rations’, but the breads and pastries sounded pretty good when they had the spices. Bear fat in a lot of dishes. Bears must have been a staple of their hunting and foraging. The main idea is that you can vary your diet, and survive with almost no veg or fruit. LOTS of fat for flavor and energy in EVERYTHING. One of the PA novels has a group slowly starving despite plentiful deer and fish, because they aren’t eating enough fat. Pigs used to be more valuable on the homestead for their fat content than their meat, and the heirloom varieties are all MUCH fatter than current. Something to keep in mind if our situation were to devolve.

Hit one sale this weekend on my way to the gas station. Grabbed a new camelback bladder and sippy hose for $2. Still had the plastic on it. Got a couple other useful things for no money last week. I’m getting more selective as I get my ‘stuff’ topped up.

And that’s the week that was….


Friday, 23 June 2017

09:10 – It was 67.9F (20C) when I took Colin out around 0645 this morning, damp and overcast. Barbara is off to the gym and supermarket this morning. This afternoon we do science kit stuff.

I forgot to mention that our purple-top white globe turnips failed miserably. We knew they were best planted in autumn, but decided to try planting a row of them this spring. They apparently flourished, but last weekend when Barbara and Al were working in the garden they decided to dig one up. It looked fine, but when they cut it open it was full of worms. So were all the others.

So we’ll plant another row of them in September and see how they do. One of the local gardeners Barbara knows recommended applying borax to keep the worms away from them. We’ll try that.

Email from Brittany about my post yesterday. She and her husband started studying for their Technician Class ham licenses a month or so ago. They’re taking it slow and easy since the next exam session anywhere close to them isn’t until August. One of their neighbors is a serious ham, and got them started by giving them a tour of his shack and demonstrating how everything worked.

They were intimidated by the room full of gear, and figured that it’d cost them thousands to get into ham radio. When he told them that they could get on the air with a radio each for less than $100 total, they thought he was kidding. He showed them one of his throwaway BaoFeng UV-5R transceivers that was set up to hit the local repeater, and told them that it was a $25 radio.

After reading my post yesterday, Brittany and her husband decided to order a UV-82 for each of them, each radio with a spare battery, whip antenna, and speaker/mic. They also got a name-brand programming cable, and downloaded/installed CHIRP. They plan to have the radios ready to go on-the-air the moment they get their licenses.


Monday, 3 April 2017

09:49 – It was 48.1F (9C) when I took Colin out around 0730 this morning, damp and with heavy fog. The forecast for the rest of this week is pretty crappy, with heavy rains/thunderstorms today and rain/snow the rest of the week, with temperatures falling below freezing starting Thursday and into the weekend.

We got some of our plants started yesterday in small pots: five pots each of amaranth, St. John’s Wort, basil, dill, sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, and jalapeno peppers; six pots each of broccoli and California Wonder sweet peppers; and eight pots each of Salad Bowl lettuce, ruby red onions, and Black Seeded Simpson lettuce. The two lettuces and jalapeno peppers are Burpee hybrid seeds. The others are all heirloom/open-pollinated. A lot of the other stuff like tomatoes, green beans, squash, turnips, parsnips, garlic, potatoes, etc. will be direct-seeded in the garden over the coming weeks.

We’re going to make up another batch of barbecue sauce today and have pork barbecue sandwiches for dinner. I’d ordered a bunch of stuff from Walmart to make it up, including three 114-ounce jugs of ketchup, two 105-ounce jugs of mustard, and four bottles of Worcestershire sauce. The first time UPS damaged the order, and Walmart re-shipped it. That was to arrive March 27th, but on March 24th I found out that UPS had also destroyed the second shipment. I figured Walmart would re-ship automatically, but as of this morning they hadn’t. So I contact their support via Chat and asked them to do so. I just go the confirming email that they’re reshipping it, so I’m hoping the third time will be a charm.

After initially having reservations, Barbara has decided that she really likes the Keystone Pork. We’ve used it so far for barbecue and in the slow cooker to make pork gloppita. We’ll be using it regularly for normal meals, so I’d better order another couple of cases.

Keystone claims a 5-year shelf life officially, but I’ve spoken to them about shelf life. One woman there told me that while they call it shelf life, in fact it’s a best-by date, and even that is really pessimistic. She said she’d eaten several of their meats that had been packed ten or more years previously and she couldn’t tell any difference between them and stuff they’d just packaged. Like most canned goods, these canned meats have actual shelf lives of decades. Other times, I talked to two different people there, who said pretty much the same thing.

Unfortunately, Walmart will let me order only the pork and beef chunks. I’d like to order more of their chicken and ground beef, but even when Walmart has those allegedly in stock they won’t let me add them to my cart. I just get a message that tells me they’re unavailable and that they can’t ship or deliver them to my nearest store with that combination of options. Oh, well. We like both the beef chunks and the pork, so that’s what I’ll order.

Speaking of which, just for a giggle I decided to check Target on-line yesterday. They do carry Augason products, although not Keystone meats. The problem is the same as it was the last time I checked, a year or two ago. Their prices are much, much higher than Walmart for the same items. They’re usually even higher than Amazon, which is saying something.

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Tuesday, 28 March 2017

10:00 – It was 52.1F (11C) when I took Colin out around 0645 this morning, damp and puddles on the drive but not raining. Barbara is attending meetings and volunteering all day. Dinner tonight is leftover slow-cooker pork and mashed potatoes, all from long-term storage.

I just noticed this morning that in the next couple days I should pass 1.8 million total views since I started this WordPress blog back in mid-2011. I remember the good olde days when my journal page drew that many reads in a year or less. Over the two or three years, I’m averaging close to 1,000 reads per day (versus 5,000 to 6,000/day back in the GoD), with my biggest day at around 1,900 reads (versus 32,000 reads in the GoD, which is about what I do in month now). Of course, back then probably 80% or more of my readers were interested in what I had to say about computer hardware and software, which I don’t talk about much any more.

Barbara is still getting our garden lined up, literally. She has rows of planting pots lined up on tables in the garage, from larger ones that hold 5 or 10 liters of soil to those little trays that we’ll soon be starting some stuff in indoors.

We’ll put those inside the French doors to the back deck. I think they’ll get enough light there, and they’ll be warm and cozy.  If they do need more light, I’ll point some 100W-equivalent LEDs at them. Those’ll work about as well as formal plant grow lights. We’ll be planting several things we didn’t try last year, including potatoes and garlic.

I also wanted to plant a few cows, chickens, and pigs, but Barbara tells me none of those will grow very well in our garden. Those and broccoli, which we tried last year with no results. Lori and several others told us that broccoli doesn’t do well here, but I’m still thinking about maybe planting a few landrace broccoli seeds just to see if they’re better-adapted.

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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

09:03 – We’re building and shipping science kits today, as usual. Before we get started on that this morning, we’re going to make up another batch of bread dough so we can bake bread this afternoon.

One of the new crops I intend to plant next spring is heirloom tobacco. Not just to smoke, although I’ll try that, but as a companion crop and as a source of organic pesticide. Most bugs hate tobacco and steer well clear of it. They may have only bug-size brains, but even they’re smart enough to realize that nicotine is very bad news for bugs.

I also intend to grow several more culinary herbs, but this year we’ll get them started indoors six months or so before the last spring freeze. Call it somewhere in the Thanksgiving to Christmas time frame. That’ll give them a chance to get well started before it’s time to put them in the ground. We’ll start them in pots so that we can set them out on the deck on nice days and bring them indoors when we have cold nights.

I keep seeing articles in the MSM saying that Trump has no chance. I think they’re whistling past the graveyard. I think Trump has at least as good a chance of winning the election as Clinton does. The main point against Trump is that he speaks his mind, saying things that the MSM finds deeply offensive. So what? A huge number of people in this country find Trump’s statements refreshing. He’s actually saying what they’re thinking. The MSM is also trying to present Trump as a loose cannon who’s likely to start a war. That’s rich, considering that Clinton has never met a war she doesn’t like. At any rate, we may not know what we’ll get if Trump is elected, but that’s acceptable to a lot of people, who know exactly what we’ll get if Clinton is elected. As to the Libertarian candidates, why bother? Neither of them is any more libertarian than Trump or Clinton, which is to say not at all. If we vote in the presidential election, it’ll be for Trump, simply because he’s Not Clinton.

Monday, 15 August 2016

09:46 – Barbara yanked out our pathetic broccoli plants the other day. Their leaves looked moth-eaten, and there were no heads developing. Lori, our mail carrier, is just the latest person to tell us that broccoli doesn’t do well up here. Too bad. Barbara and I both like broccoli.

We need to figure out by trial what works for us and what doesn’t, but that’s true of any gardener anywhere. The climate here is definitely different from Winston-Salem. I just realized yesterday that our first frost and first snow up here will probably occur in September, while it’s still summer. It reminds me a bit of growing up in New Castle, PA, where one year I remember there were still traces of snow on the ground on my birthday, in early June.

Email from Jason. He and Jessica now each have a shotgun. They decided to pay the extra price to get Remington 870 pumps. Both are in 20 gauge for ammunition commonality. Jason’s is a standard model, and Jessica’s is a youth model to suit her smaller frame. They also picked up 20 boxes of buckshot to give them 50 rounds per gun as a starting point.

Given that they both work and they have a young child to care for, Jessica convinced Jason that they didn’t have time to repackage bulk staples, so they decided to make a run or runs to their nearest LDS Home Storage Center and pick up a bunch of dry staples in #10 cans. That costs more than buying 50-pound bags of stuff and repackaging it themselves, but they both considered that a worthwhile trade-off. That fits well with the considerable amount of food they’ve already bought at Sam’s, most of which is canned. At my recommendation, they’re buying a lot of white flour rather than wheat. It’s rated at only a 10-year shelf life, but in fact it’ll be good for far longer and it’s much more convenient to use, particularly under emergency conditions. That also means they don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a good mill.

They do plan to repackage some stuff at home, mainly dry staples that the LDS HSC doesn’t offer. And they’re already putting together an order for Augason Farms stuff in #10 cans and pails. To address the water issue, they’ve already bought several foil packages of HTH for water purification, as well as a Sawyer PointZeroTwo micro-filter. They have easy access to surface water, so an ongoing source of water won’t be a problem. Their goal is to have a one-year supply of food for their family complete in the next 30 days. I suspect they’ll achieve that goal.

With Jen, Brittany, and now Jason/Jessica, I’m seeing an interesting phenomenon. I’ve been exchanging email with newbie preppers for a long time, but there seems to be a new sense of urgency. Instead of just thinking about it and talking about it, a lot more people seem to be actually doing something about it. I suspect the BLM rioting, muslim terrorism, police shootings, and the upcoming election have something to do with that.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

11:52 – Excellent dinner last night, most of it from LTS or our garden. Barbara picked some of the Blue Lake bush green beans and cooked them up in bacon fat with onion. We also had corn bread and boneless pork chops. The bacon and pork came from Costco, but everything else was from our LTS pantry and garden.

Back when we first started to look at properties in the NC mountains, I told Barbara that I wanted at least a bit of land, more than a typical suburban lot. (We ended up with 1.5 acres, which is fine.) I also told her that when we bought a place I intended to buy her a Green Acres tractor to keep in the barn so she could plow the back 40. She basically said NFW, that she was through with yard work and didn’t intend to become a farmess. Fast forward to now, where she’s having a great time in the garden and announced yesterday that she wanted to put in potatoes and some other crops next year.

Friday and yesterday was the 400-mile yard sale, with people out along US-21 from its northern terminus in Wytheville, Virginia–about 40 miles dead north of us–to its southern terminus at Hunting Island State Park, at the far southeastern tip of South Carolina. Locally, so many people were set up along US-21 (the main N-S drag in Alleghany County, which is also the main drag of the city of Sparta) that traffic was a mess, particularly in town.

Our neighbors James and Jackie Bryan were set up right at the intersection of 21 with our road. Barbara walked up to say hello. When she came back, she said James was talking to a guy who was interested in James’s rototiller. I told Barbara we should both walk up there and express an interest in the rototiller, if only to help James sell it to the guy. When we got up there, the guy had already left, so Barbara and I looked at the rototiller ourselves. We ended up buying it for $400 and rolling it back down to the house.

It’s an older Troy-Bilt model, and it’s a serious tiller. When Al brought theirs up to till our garden, I was surprised that it only did an 8-inch path. I think of it more as a cultivator than a tiller. This Troy-Bilt does a path about twice as wide. When I saw that it was a Troy-Bilt, I almost walked away without looking further. Back years ago, Troy-Bilt was an excellent name in rototillers, maybe the best. Then they were bought out by MTM in Cleveland around 2000. They shifted production from Troy, NY to Cleveland, OH and started using trash engines in them. Troy-Bilt’s reputation went downhill fast. But this tiller pre-dates the MTM acquisition and has a Tecumseh engine, which is well-known for being rock solid. So Barbara now has, if not a Green Acres tractor, at least a competent rototiller that should be more than enough to do a garden much larger than our current 0.007-acre test garden. This fall, we’ll mark out a good size plot–big enough to add several more crops, including potatoes, corn, amaranth, and more beans–and she’ll start tilling it. She’ll probably want to use her MP3 player while she does, so I’ll put a copy of the Green Acres theme song on it for her.

More science kit stuff today, mostly filling bottles.