Friday, 5 May 2017

09:02 – It was 52F (11C) when I took Colin out at 0700 this morning, cloudy and breezy. It started drizzling late afternoon yesterday. We ended up getting another 2.9 inches (7.4 cm) total overnight, another monthish worth of rain in 12 hours or so.

Our power here is pretty reliable. In the 18 months or so we’ve lived here, we’ve had one short outage. Until I woke up when our power failed at 0337 this morning. I went out on the front porch to look around. It was really, really dark. There was one small LED backup light on in the convenience store across the road and one light visible a mile or so south of us down US21. At first I thought it was a streetlight, but I suspect it was actually a parked vehicle with a spotlight, probably a power company truck. But those were the only lights visible. Colin and I went back to bed. Barbara was still asleep. I was awakened a couple hours later when the power came back on and my computer and printer rebooted.

Barbara is off to the dentist, gym, and supermarket this morning. After lunch, we’ll continue working on science kit stuff today and then over the weekend. We have chemical bottles to fill. Lots and lots of bottles.

We started watching the PA drama The Last Ship last night. A pandemic virus kills most of the planet’s population. Our heroes are the crew and CDC scientists on an Arleigh Burke destroyer that’s been isolated in the Arctic for several months. The science is bogus, but not horribly so. The plotting requires a suspension of disbelief. (Where did all those Russian helicopters come from, and how were they able to approach an Arleigh Burke so closely without being detected, let alone press an attack on it with missiles that appeared to be commercial fireworks?) But Barbara said it was “okay” and that she doesn’t mind me watching it as long as I don’t binge-watch it.

Our mail carrier and fellow prepper Lori is in a community theater play. That’s her, front row right.

 

 

Thursday, 19 January 2017

11:01 – It was 34.4F (1.3C) when I took Colin out this morning. He decided to go off on a mole-hunting expedition. We have lots of moles in our yard. Maybe we should get an outdoor cat. I assume they eat moles.

Yesterday, MTD kit revenue exceeded 100% of January 2016 revenue. Of course, 1/16 revenue was only about 65% of 1/15 revenue, so we still have ways to go to match 1/15. But with 12 days left to do it, I suspect we’ll make it.

Yesterday, I asked Lori, our USPS carrier, if she was still prepping or if Trump’s win had allayed her concerns. She said she’d not done much prepping recently, but not because she thought Trump as president meant happy days were here again. She’s just been very busy with life. She works full-time for USPS, and has a second full-time job running her cattle ranch.

Months ago, we were talking about possible serious emergencies. Lori said she felt pretty well prepared for most things, but that what worried her was that she and her daughter, 18, were on their own in a house with no nearby neighbors. I told Lori that if things ever got untenable at her place, she and Casey were welcome over here. She said that she hoped they never needed to take us up on that offer, but it was comforting to know they could stay with us if it became necessary. And, of course, she said that if the situation were reversed Barbara and I were welcome to stay at her place for however long it was necessary.

Yesterday, I told Lori I was working on a draft of a PA novel and gave her a 30-second summary of the plot. I told her that I planned to use her and her daughter as significant characters, and that I’d need her knowledge of farming and a lot of other things that she knew and I didn’t. She said to call or email her any time, and that she didn’t mind being pestered.

I’ll strive for realism in the novel, assuming it turns out I can actually write fiction. Last night, I was reading Peter Lovesey’s latest Peter Diamond police procedural when I came across the kind of minor error that I want to avoid. The detectives believed there was critical evidence on a digital camera’s memory card, but it turned out that the card was unreadable because of water damage. I knew that was crap, because years ago I accidentally ran a USB memory stick through a full washer cycle and then dried it on high. When was putting away the clean clothes, I found the memory stick in my jeans’ pocket. I figured it was probably deader than King Tut, but it turned out to have survived the experience without losing even a byte of data. So, Lovesey’s assumption was a reasonable one, but still ans assumption, and one that turned out to be bogus. An avoidable error.

Similarly, Franklin Horton’s most recent book has an alcoholic character who’s reduced to drinking Lysol. Franklin describes in painful detail what happens when the character chugs a shot of the diluted Lysol, which got me to thinking. We didn’t have any lemon-flavored Lysol, so I couldn’t reproduce the scene exactly, but we do keep a spray bottle of the diluted original-flavored Lysol on the kitchen counter, so I poured a shot of it, swished it around my mouth, spit it out, and rinsed with several changes of water.

I emailed Franklin to tell him the results of my test. In short, the Lysol just had a distinct chemical taste. Not disgusting, but not something one would drink by choice. I’ve tasted OTC medications that were worse. I told Franklin that the immediate effects of drinking diluted Lysol would probably be less dramatic than chugging 80-proof liquor.

Franklin’s reply started, “Boy, you ARE a scientist.” He said he almost sprayed his coffee out through his nose. But that’s the level of accuracy I strive for, whether I’m writing non-fiction or fiction. Obviously, I won’t always get it right, but there’s no excuse for making avoidable errors.


Sunday, 4 December 2016

11:38 – We moved into our house one year ago today, and I think Barbara finally has it pretty much the way she wants it.

Frances and Al came up for the day yesterday. Barbara immediately put him to work. She’d had five cubic yards of fill dirt delivered Friday afternoon. She wanted to get the sides of the driveway built up against the concrete pad. Yesterday morning, she unrolled and pinned black landscaping plastic along the edges of the drive, while I came along behind her tossing shovelsful of dirt on top of the plastic to hold it down in the stiff breeze. Frances and Al showed up not long after we’d finished that. Barbara and Al wheel-barrowed and spread the remainder of the pile on the plastic. The amount worked out just right.

Barbara was working on Christmas cards the other day, and I suggested we put Lori on our list. Barbara said we should get her a small gift as well, but then remembered that Kevin, our USPS carrier in Winston, had told us they weren’t allowed to accept gifts. But, as Barbara said, Lori is as much a personal friend as our USPS carrier, so we could give her a personal gift. Lori is a fellow prepper, so I ordered her a Sawyer Mini SP128 water filter. If she doesn’t already have one, she needs one. If she has one, she needs another.


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

09:34 – I’m not sure what’s going on with the Colonial Pipeline thing. On Monday and Tuesday morning, most analysts seemed to agree that Colonial One might be down for at least several weeks. Then, yesterday afternoon, Colonial announced that Two was already back in service and that they expected One to be back on-line by the end of the week. That’s good news, if true. But as of last night the fire was still burning, which makes me wonder how they can possibly expect service with Colonial One to be fully restored by Saturday, only three days from now. I’m wondering if the initial third-party estimates of repair time aren’t more accurate than what Colonial is saying. If so, the gasoline situation is going to become critical here in the East.

Yesterday was the start of the open enrollment period for Obamacare. I got onto the website first thing yesterday morning. I logged on successfully, and filled out the first screen with my email address. When I clicked the continue icon, I got a pretty green Please Wait spinner. Here it is 24 hours later, and I’m still looking at that spinner.

Two Iowa cops were shot and killed from ambush overnight. The authorities are looking for a suspect, whose photo they published. He appears to be a low-life white guy, which no doubt is why he was identified and pictured so quickly. If it had been a black guy or one of Middle-Eastern appearance, we’d still be waiting for details.

We’re down to our last box of dog treats, so I checked Amazon and Walmart for prices. I’d ordered them from both places in the past, but lately I’ve been ordering them mostly from Walmart because Amazon’s price is so high. This time, Walmart was charging $2.87/box versus Amazon at $7.93/box. This kind of ratio is getting more and more common with Amazon Prime. They used to be competitive on price. Nowadays, they’re more often not competitive. When my Prime membership comes up for renewal, I may not bother.

Lori and I discussed the gasoline situation this morning. Monday night, I called her cellphone and left voicemail for her about the Colonial Pipeline explosion. She immediately headed out to fill her tank, and called her daughter at college to tell her to fill her tank. Lori’s Jeep is also her personal vehicle. It gets truly awful mileage during stop-and-go mail deliveries. She has to fill up every day. She said that until the pipeline situation is resolved she may start filling up twice a day, assuming she can find gas stations that are open. That would allow her to keep her tank at least half full at all times.


Friday, 28 October 2016

09:54 – We got more flour repackaged yesterday. Today we’ll finish up repackaging rice and oats. The oats will use the last of our 3-liter bottles. The rice will go into 2-liter bottles because rice flows very freely through the narrower mouths of the 2-liter bottles. Any additional fluffy stuff (flour, oats, etc.) we repackage will go into LDS 1-gallon foil/Mylar bags. We’ll continue to use 2-liter bottles for free-flowing stuff like sugar and rice.

When Lori, our USPS carrier, stopped by yesterday to pick up a shipment, I asked how she was doing on repackaging the bulk staples she’d picked up at Sam’s Club last weekend. She’d finished repackaging the sugar and rice, but was waiting for her brother to deliver more 2-liter bottles for the bagged flour. I told her we had plenty of empty 2-liter bottles and that she was welcome to a trash bag or two full of them, but she said she didn’t need them right now. I offered to lend her a flexible silicone funnel with a stem that’s a slip fit for the inside of a 2-liter bottle and makes it much easier to transfer flour. She accepted with thanks. I asked if she was using oxygen absorbers and she said she intended to order some on Amazon. I told her we had plenty and offered her some to use with her repackaged flour and rice. She insisted on paying me for them, although I told her that I bought them in packs of 100 from the LDS on-line store, and they only cost twelve cents each. I then gave her a small Mason jar of the oxygen absorbers and a one-minute tutorial on how to use them.

Barbara and I have been trying different main courses that can be made exclusively with LTS food. Last night, we made a skillet dinner with one pound of ground beef (we actually used frozen, but it would work just as well with the Keystone canned ground beef we keep in stock), one pound of macaroni, one can of green beans, two cups of Augason Farms cheesy broccoli soup in four cups of water, and three tablespoons of onion flakes. It was quick and easy to make, and turned out very well. In fact, we’re having the leftovers for dinner tonight and decided to add it to our main meal rotation. Barbara did suggest dropping the onion from three to two tablespoons, but she’s not a big fan of onion or garlic. These ingredients make sufficient to serve as a main meal for four to six people.

We’re spending some time today and tomorrow on inventorying kits and components. We’re at a comfortable level of finished goods inventory for this time of year, when we’re shipping an average of only one kit per day, but I want to get ready to build a lot more as kit sales ramp up in late November and through December and January.

Clinton and Obama’s wife made a campaign stop in Winston-Salem yesterday, at the Lawrence Joel Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum. The front-page article in the paper this morning said the crowd was estimated at 11,000, with a vast majority being women, but I have my doubts. The photograph they ran with the article showed Clinton and Obama on-stage with maybe a hundred people in the stands. There was a large section of empty seats visible, and a few populated rows of seats with a large curtain blocking off the seating behind them. My guess is that actual attendance was probably a few hundred people. Clinton rallies are notorious for being lightly attended, while Trump rallies are invariably standing room only.


Saturday, 15 October 2016

10:44 – We just hauled 100 pounds each of flour and sugar and 50 pounds of rice up from the basement, all in 50-pound bags. We’ll be repackaging that this weekend. We could have repackaged it down in the downstairs unfinished area, but I prefer to repackage food in the kitchen. That means hauling up the bags and then hauling down the bottles, but that’s okay.

That totals 250 pounds, which is basically eight or nine person-months of food. Not balanced nutrition, certainly. It’s very heavy on carbohydrates, light on protein (which is also not balanced), and very light on lipids. That’s fine, though. This stuff is LTS bulk calories. We have meats and oils/fats stored that make it complete nutrition.

Lori, our USPS carrier, mentioned yesterday that she intended to make a Sam’s Club run this weekend to stock up on bulk LTS foods. She asked about repackaging for LTS, and said that she was using 2-liter bottles without oxygen absorbers. I told her that was fine, assuming rodents can’t get to them, and that that food should be perfectly usable for many years. She also mentioned that she doesn’t drink soft drinks, so she was depending on her brother to save his 2-liter bottles for her. I told her that I hadn’t thrown away an empty PET bottle in years, and that we had garbage bags full of them in the basement. I said Barbara would be delighted to get rid of some of them. Barbara said just to have Lori back her Jeep up to the garage and we’d fill it up with 2-liter bottles.

I also told Lori that filling 2-liter bottles with flour or other fluffy stuff was a PITA because of their narrow mouths and that she’d need a funnel with the largest stem diameter that would fit into the mouth of a 2-liter bottle. We have three soft silicone funnels, and I offered to lend her one. Alternatively, she can use the top half of a 2-liter bottle as a funnel, and a 2.5″ or 3″-wide piece of Velcro to wrap and align the two 2-liter bottle mouths together while she fills.


Wednesday, 12 October 2016

09:32 – Barbara is leaving mid-afternoon to head down to Winston. She’s staying at her sister’s house tonight and heading home tomorrow afternoon after running errands. It’ll be wild women and parties for Colin and me. Or it would be, except that Lori, our USPS carrier and fellow prepper, keeps an eye on us when Barbara’s away.

One of Barbara’s friends from the historical society volunteers is just in the process of moving to Sparta from New Jersey. Her husband’s family is originally from Sparta, and she and her husband have actually owned a home here for years. She’s semi-retired from teaching and her husband is retiring, so they decided to relocate here. They have a son, aged 15, and a college-age daughter. They’re doing the same back-and-forth that Barbara and I did, trying to get the Sparta house ready to move into and their house in New Jersey ready to sell. The difference is that instead of it being 60 miles between their old house and the new one, as it was for Barbara and me, it’s almost ten times that far to New Jersey. Right now, she’s living here, camping out in one room, while her husband is living in New Jersey, taking care of stuff there.

She dropped by our house yesterday and visited for an hour or two. Barbara of course gave her a tour of the house. After she’d left, I asked Barbara if she’d showed her our food storage areas downstairs. She had, and of course Barbara got the usual comment about how if things turned bad they’d show up at our door. Barbara said she’d also said that her husband wanted to build their food storage and so on, so it sounds as though we’ll be getting to know another family of preppers. The husband and son are also shooters, and the son is excited about getting started hunting down here.


For future reference:

o A 3-liter soft drink bottle can hold 5 pounds plus an ounce or two of white flour if you tap it well to pack it down.

o A 1.75 liter Tropicana orange juice bottle can hold 3 pounds plus an ounce or two of corn meal if you tap it well to pack it down.


Friday, 7 October 2016

09:44 – We’re already getting rain from the outer bands of Matthew. Half an inch (1.3 cm) overnight. Depending on Matthew’s track, we may get anything from another inch or so down to nothing. Lori just picked up the mail. Her daughter is home from UGA in Athens, Georgia to await developments. I suspect most kids from colleges near the coast whose family homes are inland and within driving distance are home for the weekend, many of them with friends or roommates whose family homes are too far away to make it practical to drive home.

We cleaned, sanitized, and dried 44 three-liter bottles, which we’ll be filling with bulk staples over the next few days. We used the double kitchen sink, with each side filled with six or seven gallons (~25 liters) of water, with dish washing detergent and half a cup (120 mL) of chlorine bleach added to each side. One unanticipated side effect was that our white porcelain sinks are now pure white. Scrubbing with abrasive detergent gets them reasonably clean, but chlorine bleach diluted one tablespoon (15 mL) to a gallon (4 L) of water gets them really clean. Our hands were also a lot cleaner than they’ve been in years. Having them in that solution pretty much constantly for an hour or two probably killed every microorganism that had been on them.

In the interest of getting to know more people in the community, I called the 4-H representative yesterday and asked if they needed volunteers. She fell all over herself encouraging me to volunteer, particularly once I told her about my background in science. The woman who actually coordinates volunteers was out of the office for a week-long training session, but she’s going to call me when she returns.


Tuesday, 20 September 2016

09:32 – USPS is running today. Lori just stopped to pick up a couple of kits and told me that the Sparta area is getting limited gasoline deliveries. I suspected as much. When I took Colin out this morning to pick up the paper, there was a tanker truck sitting in the 4 Brothers/Liberty station across the road. The odd thing was that it’s normally a Beroth Oil tanker, because Beroth owns the chain of stores. This time, it was a generic tanker. The other odd thing was that when I looked again an hour or so later, the station still had the gas pumps blocked off. I wonder if the city/county has limited this station to filling emergency vehicles until the supply situation is resolved.

Lori also told me that things are getting crazy out there. When a guy at the Wilco station finally got to the pump, he filled up his tank and gas cans and then sat blocking the pump while he called his friends on his cell phone and told them that he’d keep the pump blocked until they could get there to fill up. Other people in line didn’t take that well, of course, and fist fights broke out. It’s just lucky that no one started shooting.

The problem, of course, is panic buying. Most people wait until their gas gauge is down to a quarter or less before they fill their tanks. In recent days, everyone has been filling their tanks regardless of how much they had left, not to mention filling every gas can available. Not to mention trying to hold a place in line until their friends can get there. Even if the pipeline and distribution system is operating at normal capacity, there’s no way it can keep up with that kind of demand.

My takeaway on all this is that once the emergency passes and gas cans are available again, we need to buy at least two or three cans, fill them, treat them with fuel stabilizer, and periodically cycle them through our vehicles. Not so much to have fuel for the vehicles as to have fuel for our generator if there’s a long-term power failure. I’ve calculated that we can run our well pump long enough to keep us supplied with water at a minimal level on five gallons or so of gasoline a month.

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