Thursday, 31 August 2017

08:23 – It was 64.3F (18C) when I took Colin out at 0620, dark and heavily overcast. The remnants of Harvey are to come through today and tomorrow, ending Saturday, dropping two or three inches (5 to 7.5 cm) of rain.

Barbara is off to Winston this morning for a haircut, a small Costco run, and lunch with a friend, returning this afternoon. Tomorrow and over the holiday weekend, we’ll be building more science kits.

Assuming we get no more kit orders today, August 2017 revenues totaled 133% of August 2016 revenues. The better August this year was enough to make up for the slower July, with combined revenues for July/August 2017 matching those for July/August 2016. Now to see what happens in September.


Email from Kathy. She and Mike, along with another like-minded couple that they’ve become friends with, are running a grid-down readiness exercise over the holiday weekend at Kathy’s house.

Well, kind of. They’re actually not going to turn off their main breaker, because they don’t want to run their generator all weekend to keep the refrigerator/freezer cold. So Kathy plans to duct-tape the refrigerator/freezer doors closed and feed everyone from dry and canned LTS food and stored water. They did decide to turn off the breaker to their well pump, so they’ll also be using stored water to do dishes, flush the toilets, and so on.

Monday, 28 August 2017

09:35 – It was 55.5F (13C) when I took Colin out at 0700, partly cloudy. Barbara is off to the gym and supermarket, after which it’s back to work on science kits.


I keep seeing articles like this one about the decline in prepping. FTA:

I’ve recently noticed several survival/prepper blogs that have stopped publishing probably because of the lack of interest in prepping after Trump was elected. I think that over the next several months we’ll see many others stop posting new content. I’ve also noticed the same with prepper related YouTube channels.

I’ve talked with a couple of my former advertisers and they have noticed a huge drop in sales over the past few months. And they both told me that survival blogs were not sending any traffic or sales and that it’s not just this site but all survival blogs that they advertised on.

I’ve noticed no such decline. I suspect that Creekmore and others that are trying to make a living from preppers are encountering two problems:

1. After the 837th me-too article on building a bugout bag or choosing a retreat location, how much more can anyone say?

2. Most prepping supplies aren’t purchased via on-line ads or from specialty prepping vendors. They’re purchased from Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Amazon, Home Depot, and other mainstream vendors. By now, most preppers and would-be preppers have caught on to the fact that they don’t need the overpriced items that prepping websites are pushing. And most preppers who are going to buy big-ticket specialty prepping items have already done so. Those who haven’t but intend to do so will, like nearly all consumers nowadays, price-shop the hell out of it. Rather than buy from boutique prepping vendors/ads, they’ll buy their products from mainstream vendors.

The last time I bought a prepping item from a boutique prepping vendor was … never. And I suspect that most preppers shop the same way. For example, when I exchanged email a week or so ago with my contact at Keystone Meats, I asked her how business was. She said that they were shipping product as fast as they could make it. I suspect the same is true of Augason Farms and other companies that produce products of interest to preppers.


Email from Kathy. She and Mike, following the example of Jen, Brittany, and the other Prepper Girls, have decided to run a readiness exercise over the long Labor Day weekend. They’ve hooked up with another local couple about the same age as they are and who also have two teenagers. This couple shares their interest in prepping and are similarly well-prepared. They decided to do a grid-down simulation over the holiday at Kathy’s and Mike’s place, starting Friday evening and running through Monday evening, just to work out the kinks.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

07:52 – It was 60.0F (16C) when I took Colin out at 0630, partly cloudy.

Barbara is due back from Winston later this morning, at which point we’ll get back to work on building more science kits. We finished building a batch of two dozen of the CK01B chemistry kits yesterday, so we’re in good shape on those for now. Same with biology and forensic kits. But I have four more of the CK01A chemistry kits awaiting pickup by USPS this morning, and we’re down to only three of those in stock. So the next priority is building another two or three dozen of those.


Email from Kathy overnight. She and Mike read the comments yesterday, and Mike has abandoned his plan to build an ad hoc cold storage room in the basement. He told Kathy that, in his defense, he HAD proposed it as a “cunning plan”.

He came up with the idea after seeing what we’d done here with our old refrigerator, re-purposing it to extend the shelf life of canned meats, sauces, dried eggs/butter/cheese, and so on. After reading what the commenters said yesterday, he agreed with Kathy that it was a dumb idea. Oh, well. That’s why the hive mind here is so useful to them (and to me).


I was just thinking about two contrasting views on allies: “If you’re not with me, you’re against me” and “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. I think we’re seeing a significant shift among pro-freedom people, Normals, from the former to the latter viewpoint.

In the past, even groups that seemed to be natural allies–say libertarians of different camps–fought each as viciously as they fought statists, if not more so. The same with conservatives, or any other groups considered right of center by the current definition of that term. Leftists, on the other hand, made Common Cause, so to speak.

What I see now is the right coalescing into a single group, willing to put up with each others’ different beliefs in the interests of presenting a common front against the statists/progressives.

After Charlottesville, for example, I actually found myself having some sympathy for the neo-Nazis/skinheads, something I would never have believed possible. I still deplore nearly all of their beliefs, and they’re still leftists, but at least they were out there fighting the progressive leftists.

And you see that alliance among the frequent commenters on this blog. We have a wide range of people, from devout Christians to radical atheists, and from traditional conservatives to hard-core libertarians. And yet we all seem to get along pretty well. I know I’d be comfortable with any of these people watching my back, and I’d hope they feel the same. We can beat the leftists first, and only then argue like hell about our differences. But, as they say, we’re at the point where we all hang together or we all hang separately.

So I spent some time watching videos made by a young woman whom, not all that long ago, I wouldn’t have spent any time listening to. She goes by the name of Patriot Nurse, and we have a lot of differences. She’s a traditional conservative, I’m a radical libertarian. She’s devoutly religious (Jewish, although it took me a while to realize that because she so often quotes New Testament scripture) and I’m a committed atheist. She’s an anti-vaxxer and I’m a scientist. She’s an ovo-lacto vegetarian (or perhaps a vegan; she reports her food preferences differently in different videos) and I’m an omnivore tending toward carnivore. She’s into some woo-woo medical stuff, while I insist on evidence-based medicine.

But instead of focusing on our differences while I watched her videos, I focused on what we have in common, which is a love of freedom, a commitment to the Constitution, and sympathy for the anti-Federalists and the Confederate States of America. I found that she’s worth watching.

YouTube put this video in my recommended list, so I watched it, followed by half a dozen more before this one came up.

I have never before sensed the intensity of suppressed rage that I did while watching this video. This is not a woman I’d want to have pissed at me. Her rants are more intense than I’ve ever seen. She lives three hours or so down the road from us, and I suspect there are tens of thousands of others like us between Sparta and Knoxville.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

09:16 – It was 67.9F (20C) when I took Colin out at 0645, partly cloudy.

Barbara is leaving mid-afternoon to head down to Winston. She’ll have dinner with Frances and Al, stay with them tonight, and then head back tomorrow morning, making a Costco run on her way out of town. It’s WW&P for Colin and me.

Our LTS food inventory is at steady-state now, so we don’t need much. I did ask Barbara to pick me up a case of six #10 cans of coffee, a two-pack of mayonnaise, and another case of Costco bottled water in gallons.

Barbara just headed for the gym. When she returns, she’ll finish packing up the two dozen chemistry kits we assembled yesterday, and then label bottles for stuff we’re running out of. While she’s gone, I’ll make up solutions for those.


Email from Kathy, whom I hadn’t heard from in a month or so. All of the stuff they had on order has arrived, been checked in, and shelved. The propane tank and gas cooktop has been installed. She’s done her first pressure-canning run, canning up ten pounds of sausage that she bought on sale. Now she’s carefully watching the jars, halfway expecting the lids to pop or something.

Mike has proposed a Cunning Plan, which Kathy thinks is just bizzare. He points out that they don’t have a cold cellar, and he’d like to build one in the basement by enclosing a small area, insulating it heavily, and building a refrigerator into the wall, pointed into the enclosed area. Kind of like a 21st-century version of an old ice-house.

She asked my opinion. I told her that I’m not a refrigeration engineer, but it just might work. The refrigerator’s compressor would probably have to run for a couple of days to get the insulated area cooled down and there might be some problems with temperature differentials within the space, but keeping a well-insulated larger volume cool isn’t much different from keeping the interior of the refrigerator cool.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

09:17 – It was 69.8F (21C) when I took Colin out at 0700, partly cloudy. Barbara has some work to do in the garden this morning, and is volunteering at the Friends of the Library bookstore this afternoon. Our dinners the last couple of evenings have been mostly from the garden: potatoes, green beans, and yellow squash casserole. Knowing I like meat, Barbara grilled a couple of pork chops Sunday evening for me to have Sunday and yesterday along with the rabbit food.

We’ve been watching the 2008 BBC version of War & Peace. Lots of cuties, a good dress once in a while, so I’m happy. The plot has something to do with Russia and Napoleon, but I’m not really paying much attention to that part. We also have the Aussie series A Place to Call Home in progress, with the extraordinary Marta Dusseldorp, as well as Dalziel & Pascoe, with the extraordinary Susannah Corbett.

As I remarked to Barbara, I’d be pretty happy watching just historical costume dramas and documentaries, with no contemporary series other than Heartland and one or two others. I think she feels pretty much the same way.

We got a lot of chemical bottles filled yesterday. Today, I’ll be making up still more chemical solutions. While I’m at it, I need to order a few thousand more bottles. We’re down to only a few hundred of the 15 mL bottles left in stock, and we use a lot of them.

Kathy’s comment yesterday about how little the bulk food/calories cost them got me to thinking, so I calculated just how much they did spend on their dry bulk LTS stuff.

~ $100 – 400 pounds of white flour
~ $120 – 400 pounds of white rice
~ $360 – 400 pounds of assorted pasta
~ $140 – 300 pounds of white sugar
~ $100 – 120 pounds of oats
~ $ 50 – 80 pounds of cornmeal
~ $ 80 – 100 pounds of assorted dry beans
~ $ 18 – 48 pounds of iodized salt
~ $ 70 – 18 gallons of vegetable oil and shortening
~ $180 – 24 large jars of herbs and spices

or roughly $1,200 for enough food—literally a ton, at an average of about $0.60/pound—to feed four people for one year on iron rations. That’s about 500 pounds of food and $300 per year per person. The only additional cost, other than their time, was about $150 for LDS foil-laminate Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers.

Of course, they actually spent about five times that much, but most of that was on canned foods, particularly meats. (If not for the meat as supplemental protein, they’d have needed a lot more beans to provide complete protein, probably 250 pounds rather than 100.)

Monday, 24 July 2017

09:06 – It was 68.0F (20C) when I took Colin out at 0730, cloudy and breezy. We had a strong thunderstorm roll in about midnight, with loud thunder and bright lightning. Colin was terrified and started climbing all over us, begging us to make it stop. We ended up getting about 1.2″ (3 cm) of rain.

We got a lot of chemical bottles filled yesterday. More today. Barbara is off to the gym this morning. While she’s gone I’ll make up more chemicals, a gallon (4 L) each of salicylate standard solution, 1.0 M stabilized sodium thiosulfate solution, 6 M hydrochloric acid solution, etc. etc. With the dozen or so other solutions I’ve made up over the last couple of days, that gives us plenty of bottles to fill.

Email from Kathy overnight, who says Phase I of their prepping is now complete, other than a few items that are still on order and haven’t arrived and the installation of their propane tank and appliances. That happens this week. They’re taking a break from buying/stacking stuff, and intend to start actually using it. The first step was last night, when they made beef Stroganoff all from LTS storage. She said it turned out very good.

Their intention now is to start cooking and baking at least several days a week from LTS, with minimal use of fresh foods until they find recipes they like that they can make from LTS food. Going forward, they’ll periodically replace what they’ve used and continue to expand on what they have until they’ve filled their storage space. She and Mike were both impressed by just how little the bulk food/calories cost them, so they’ll focus their expansion efforts on the cheap LTS bulk stuff so that they’ll have extra on hand to help friends and neighbors if it ever comes to that.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

09:15 – It was 72.5F (22.5C) when I took Colin out at 0645. More heads-down work on science kits today.

I’m very disappointed in the Netflix DVD service, which has become pretty much worthless. We were members for about a decade, ending in 2012. I kept a log of everything, including the date the shipped us a disc, when we received it, when we sent it back, when they received it, and when they shipped the replacement disc. Back then, Netflix operated seven days a week, and the USPS also worked with them every day of the week.

When Netflix got a disc back from us, they’d immediately ship the replacement disc, which would arrive the next day. We’d watch it and return it the following day. They’d receive it late that night or early the following morning, and immediately ship the replacement disc.

They no longer work that way. I signed up for the 2-discs-at-a-time plan at 0928 last Monday morning, the 17th, expecting them to ship the first two discs that afternoon. Instead, they didn’t ship them until 1350 the following day, Tuesday the 18th. We received them Wednesday morning, the 19th, watched them, and returned them Thursday morning the 20th. They emailed to acknowledge receipt at 1242 on Friday the 21st. I expected them to send the next two discs that afternoon, which we’d receive Saturday the 22nd. Nope. Not only didn’t they ship the replacement discs Friday afternoon, they STILL haven’t shipped them. So, assuming they get around to shipping them tomorrow, that means their cycle is about one set per week, or roughly 10 discs/month. At $12/month, that’s $1.20 per disc rental charge.

So I won’t be continuing the service once the free 30-day trial expires. In fact, I may just cancel it immediately. Until 2012, we had the 3-disc plan. It cost $15/month for 3 discs versus $12/month now for 2 discs. Looking at the 1,500 or so discs we rented over a decade, back then it was costing about $0.70/disc, so they’ve basically increased their prices by more than 70%.

I understand that Netflix would be operating at a loss without disc rental revenue. And they have only four million or so people on disc rental plans, a number that’s dropping fast. I don’t expect the service to last more than three or four more years before it loses critical mass. Oh, well. They just lost me.


Email from Kathy. They got a lot done Friday, working straight through. They got all of their bulk rice, oats, beans, and sugar packed in foil-laminate Mylar bags, sealed, labeled, and put on the shelves. More than a half a ton worth in total. They got partway through the flour and other bulk staples.

Mike got the second island shelf unit finished earlier in the week, and got all of the canned goods, herbs/spices, etc. moved onto the shelves, with the latest best-by dates toward the rear and bottom. Kathy was about 95% happy with how he’d done it, but made a few adjustments. She’s in charge of LTS food and cooking, so she needs things where she wants them and where she knows where they are.

Mike got the propane tank on order. It’s supposed to be installed and the lines run next week. They ended up with a 330-gallon tank like the one we have. Mike also ordered a propane space heater from the same company that’s installing the tank and lines. They didn’t carry cooktops. The propane gas cooktop is on order from Lowes, and is supposed to be delivered next week. Coincidentally, they ended up ordering exactly the same model we have other than color.

Mike got the upper and base cabinets and laminate countertop at the local building supply store, which delivered them. He’s installing those himself. Kathy talked with the Prepper Girls about pressure canning. She dithered about ordering a <$100 Presto pressure canner like the one we and several of the Prepper Girls use versus a $350 All-American unit. They talked it over and decided to order the All-American. She also has a bunch of canning jars on order with Walmart, as well as canning accessories.

She almost ordered a gross of wide-mouth reusable Tattler lids, but chickened out at the last moment. She (and several of the Prepper Girls) are concerned about them making good seals. Most reviewers give them glowing reviews, but more than a few report failures to seal, either during the canning process or weeks to months afterward. And some of those are people who have 20 or more years of canning experience.

So Kathy is debating with herself about ordering enough of those to match the number of canning jars she has, with a few spares, versus just ordering half a dozen one-use lids for each jar. The upside of the Tattler lids is that if she can get 10 uses from each, it’ll cost about half what it would to use reusable lids. The downside is that she’s afraid they might not work reliably.

Kathy also has a new Nesco dehydrator. She thought about buying an Excalibur, but decided the Nesco would do the same job at a third the price. So she picked up a Nesco on their shopping trip yesterday. They decided they didn’t need to make the 3-hour round trip run to Sam’s Club so instead they made the 90-minute round trip to the Walmart Super Center where they usually shop a couple times a month.

She decided to try out the dehydrator with some strawberries they picked up on the same trip. So after dinner yesterday she spent some time prepping and slicing the strawberries and loading up the trays to dry them overnight. One thing she hadn’t thought about is that their whole house now smells pleasantly of strawberries. She said she’d glad she didn’t decide to start by drying garlic. If she does stuff that smells bad, she plans to do it outside.

When they got up this morning, the strawberries were dry enough that they crumbled to powder. She made the mistake of letting Mike sample one, which he munched dry. He says they make a great snack. Kathy’s afraid she won’t have any left to store.

 

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.

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.

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.