Category: personal readiness level

Sat. May 18, 2024 – home, cleanup, generators, and maybe some solar

Starting cool and wet, and warming to steamy if I’m unlucky. Last night was nice and cool.

Started Friday at the BOL. Decided to head home to watch the house and manage the freezers, while wife and kids would bug out to the lake. So I set up a big dehumidifier and some fans, sprayed down all the exposed wet walls and floor in the dockhouse, and hit the road. I brought 25 gallons of gas and two propane bottles with me, a chainsaw, some parts, and my PPEs for chainsawing… Stopped half way home to top of the truck and buy some other stuff at Tractor Supply. Bought another 5 gallon gas can because they had plastic Spector jerry can style cans on sale for 20$ which is a good price.

I bought some 2 cycle oil too. Won’t be doing that at TS if I can help it. Their oil was 12$ to treat 5 gallons. Their premix was 25$ a gallon. Crazy high compared to Lowes, but might not be available at all in Houston, so I bit the bullet. Yes, I already had some, but more is good.

Got home, got the Honda 3000i running on propane. Got my trusty Generac running briefly but the carb is shot. Ordered on from amz to arrive Monday. I’ll try messing with it today and tomorrow anyway, but I’ve got the backup coming.

I’m writing this at 1130pm and the gennie has been running to power the fridges and freezers since about 7. They are cold again/still. Several people on my street have gennies running, one guy even has his landscape lights on. I’m shutting down overnight though. Can’t hear mine from the street, but I don’t want to waste the propane. I don’t have a good idea of runtime on a BBQ bottle…

Today will be cleanup, getting power sorted and organized for the long haul. I think it could be weeks before we’re up again. Ike had us running on generator for 14 days. At least we have running water, and while the gennie is running the instant hot water heater runs. I might set up one of the camp heaters but they use propane too and it might be hard to get later.

Speaking of, TS had MrHeater refillable one pound bottles, and the setup to refill them. Bottles were ~20. They had an extensive MrHeater display with lots of accessories. Watch for a closeout when the seasons finally change, or pick some up now…

I’m using my lappy and my cell as a hotspot so posting might be sparse. Share if you have any info or news as I’ll probably see it here first.

I did not expect a big storm this early and I’m not really ready. Paying the price for that…

But hey, the stacks are paying off once again.

Stack some of your own.


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Tues. Oct. 24, 2023 – Taco Tuesday! Or maybe carnitas…

Warmer and damp. Supposed to be partly cloudy today, and then light rain for the next week, so I’ve got work to do…

Spent most of yesterday not doing what I was planning to do. Yeah I know. Kid needed to be picked up from school, and that is a hard stop in my afternoon, and so I did some other stuff, then left the house early. She needed her Halloween costume, and I usually find all the pieces for it. I’ve been slack this year, or unlucky, so I thought I’d better make an effort and complete that project. It’s pretty hardcore work avoidance, but someone’s gotta do it. I shopped before picking her up, then we both shopped on the way home. I think we got it.

Stopped in our local Aldi on the way home, and bought a pack of gum. Really. And it turned out to be the exact gum I have at home too. But I’d never been in the Aldi, and we were already in the car, so I agreed. Aldi was barren. HUGE wide aisles, empty spaces where product should have been, very limited selection, and prices are not lower than elsewhere. I don’t know what modern Aldi stores typically look like, but I wasn’t impressed. Lots of quick meals, and ‘meals for one’ with the sort of fake healthy prepackaged food the yoga pants crowd likes, but very little meat or veg. In fact there were two empty coolers in the meat section, and several empty open front coolers in the aisle. Weird “fake loft” feel to the whole place too. Kinda like when they call a completely styled and furnished 750KUSD condo a “loft”. Polished concrete floors and no ceiling don’t a loft make, only the ersatz version. Place was empty too. Two employees, two shoppers.

Today, well, more of the same. I still have a load to drop off at the auction, and I’ve got stuff to put out before the rain comes. D1 has her last sportsball game in the late afternoon, and I’m going to that, so it will be a short work day. I’m having a hard time with motivation this week.

Oh, power went out yesterday too, which is one of the reasons I decided to hit the thrifts and shop. “Damage to equipment” was the reason given, with no further details. It was back on in about an hour, but I really need to get the gennie set up. We are sliding faster down the slope. I need some new UPSs and extended run batteries too. I’ll be buying new, in case I won’t have a chance to do so later. The last round of ‘new’ didn’t last very long, or maybe they did their job and died in the line of duty, but I wasn’t impressed. Back to commercial grade APC– if I can find them at a price I can afford.

I’m thinking hard about what is most critical to top up. Food is obvious, and I’ve got a lot aging out, along with meds. We don’t actually use many OTC products though so that should be covered, and the food is mostly “do I have room for that” at this point. Water filtration and purification, along with power are my most serious concerns at the moment. Both will take more thought, some scrounging or luck in the auctions, and more time and planning. Gah. It’s always something.

But, it’s doable. And I’m doing it. Stack with me my friends…


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Sat. June 17, 2023 – poetry circle time…

Hot and humid.   Next 5 days too.   Very hot yesterday.  I was careful working, but still got a touch of sunburn and felt a little “off”.

Did a quick pickup yesterday morning, then headed to my client’s house to finish up the open items.  Stopped at my local electronics/networking/installer stuff store and grabbed a ubiquiti access point.   Didn’t realize I was grabbing the heavy duty “long range” mack daddy version.   That thing will light your hair on fire…

I was careful to alternate indoor and outdoor tasks throughout the afternoon and evening.   The late start gave me some good shade to work in, and I work a big straw hat and my cool vest.  Even so I fell behind in my hydration.   When the sweat stops dripping off my nose and eyelids, it’s time to drink some more.

Got most of the work done.  Took longer than it should have.  Automagic is great, when it works, and if it works.   Sometimes it takes a lot of messing around and multiple tries before the magic does its thing.   That can be very frustrating.   I fought with adding cameras to the NVR and with adding the WAP to the existing network.

Upsold the client on three more cams, so I’ll still have money coming in next month.

Today is my non-prepping hobby meeting.  It got moved a week due to a conflict with the venue.   After that, I’ll do a couple of small pickups, and hit my secondary location to load up some stuff for the BOL.  Then it’s home to do yard work so I can get out of town for a while and work at the BOL.

In the interest of ‘improving’ myself, I will occasionally do something I don’t normally do.   Reading poetry is one of those  things.   I do enjoy Kipling, and many of the people I read online make sure to mention his poems from time to time.

A week or two or a few ago I picked up a book at the goodwill ‘bins’ store it was vintage, but not particularly valuable.   It was poetry  by Robert L. Service and a couple bits I read were funny or engaging so I got it for me, even though it wasn’t worth enough to re-sell.   Imagine my surprise when I was reading along in the smallest room in the house, and I found I recognized something…   I’ll close today with the last stanza.   The whole thing is available here.

It Is Later Than You Think

Lastly, you who read; aye, you
Who this very line may scan:
Think of all you planned to do …
Have you done the best you can?
See! the tavern lights are low;
Black’s the night, and how you shrink!
God! and is it time to go?
Ah! the clock is always slow;
It is later than you think;
Sadly later than you think;
Far, far later than you think.

emphasis added.

Stack it up.


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Mon. Nov. 8, 2021 – joy… and pain, sunshine …. and rain

Cool but clear and sunny later. Basically gorgeous weather. And the forecast says the same for a couple more days too. Hooray! That was yesterday, started running the heat in the morning, and ran A/C in the late evening once the house had soaked up the sun. I’m certainly hoping for more of the same.

Yesterday was eaten by ducks. And pain. I was paying the price for my lifting, bending, and toting the day before. The inversion table and the foam roller both got a workout, and both helped, but I couldn’t walk, stand, or sit without pinching pain in my back until late in the afternoon, and after my second go ’round with the table and roller. That coupled with the family coming home meant not much got done. I did put away a few more Halloween decorations, got out the Thanksgiving decoration bin, and cleaned up some stuff in the garage and attic.

I added a couple of small bins to my upright freezer to better organize the meat. I had been just stacking it on shelves and it would cascade out if I bumped it wrong… I don’t know if the plastic bins will hold up in the cold, but they are better than having everything slide around. I need to find a few more that fit.

I ate my first grapefruit off my potted tree for breakfast yesterday. It was a bit on the smaller side, like a navel orange, but was delicious. Only three more on the tree, but that’s more than I got on the big tree in five years. And then the freeze killed it the year it produced a dozen fruits. I really like the idea of fruit and nut trees as a prep, but they are damnably hard to keep alive here in Houston. And I’ve still not seen a single fruit or flower on the peach tree.

Growing your own food is hard. Get started learning about your area and your garden.


For the last couple of days, I’ve been thinking about doing some followup on stuff that worked for me, and that I still like. So here goes.

I really like the container I got to save cooking fat in the kitchen. It is stainless steel, has a flip up lid, a strainer, and the top 1/3 lifts off to reveal the saved fatty goodness in the bottom. Got it on amazon and it works well. Saving cooking fat has a long history and is a great way to save money and cook tasty meals. Use mason jars, airtight canisters, or something airtight and new, but start saving that bacon grease, and using it later.

Ditto for the little flip top trash can I got for the bathroom counter. It looks like a mini version of the old school round topped metal trash cans, with the ‘flap’ in the top. It’s a bit thin and the stainless isn’t really, but it does the job of catching all the little bits of paper from the breathe-rite strips and any other little bits of trash. Those bits would flutter and scatter all over the bathroom when I used to toss them toward the regular can.

The Toto Drake dual flush toilet works really well. Only one time since I put it in did it need a plunge, and that’s down from several times a day. Every Toto toilet I’ve put in has worked very well. This one has a very small amount of water in the bowl, and a lot of dry porcelain. It gets dirty quickly. If having a spotless bowl is important, get one with a bigger water puddle. Other than that, it’s a flushing CHAMP.

The can organizers I installed at the beginning of the lockdown work, but they have slightly distorted over time. They are plastic, and have sagged enough that cans don’t roll through as freely as when it was new. FIFO is important when using your preps, but the racks aren’t as efficient for storage as just stacking flats of cans. You won’t get as many cans in the same volume space, but they are MUCH easier to actually use daily for cooking when you can get to them. I added more despite knowing they aren’t perfect, so that I could have more varieties of cans in the dispenser. If you’re not just piling up cans against future need, get some kind of FIFO can racking.

And while I didn’t use them as much this year as last, both styles of cooling vest worked well for me. Techniche for the evap one, ergodyne for the gel pack.

The Uniden Home Patrol II scanner continues to work well, and I’ve heard a lot of stuff going on in my area on it. Pair it with a good discone antenna from MFJ and listen to it. There is a lot of stuff that is going on around you that never gets reported. Start paying attention to it, and you’ll be better off.

High tech ‘cool’ fabrics for shirts, and shorts, and wool blend socks. What a difference in hot weather comfort. Cotton is NOT for that first layer, or maybe even for the second. About the only good thing about cotton is cost and flame retardant properties. Even for my cold weather clothes, the high tech breathable wicking t shirts in long sleeve are more comfortable than anything else I’ve ever used as a first layer. Clothes have gone technical, and it makes a difference. If the cost is too much, look at Goodwill. A lot of stuff there is never worn. You can try the technical fabrics cheaply, and then spend the money in the store on a brand you like, if you must have new. These are not the stinky poly blend fabrics from decades ago.

Boots and shoes. I rotate through shoes, rarely wearing the same pair two days in a row. It helps the shoes last longer, and your feet will be more comfortable. And for gnu’s sake, get shoes that fit. All the different manufacturers use different ‘lasts’. The last is the shape they build the shoe on, and by trying different brands you can find shoes and boots that fit your weirdo feet. KEEN has a large ‘toe box’ but the soles are a bit slippery when wet. I wore through a couple of pairs and generally liked them. Asic and Columbia made the lightweight ‘sneakers’ I wear on normal days. They are available in wide widths if you need that, or have a high arch. They fit me perfectly in a EEE width. They aren’t “sturdy” but they are lightweight and have held up well. I wore the Columbia pair in Disneyworld and never had an issue. Get some shoes that FIT and don’t be afraid to try sports and active lifestyle brands that are smaller, they have to cater to their buyers, and seem to offer more options.

And for long term, leather boots with vibram soles. Any overmolded soft plastic in place of rubber will turn to goo with time and crumble to a sticky mess. Men should be able to buy all leather dress shoes from a quality maker, and with care they will outlast you. Cole Haan, and most of the J&M lines are not quality. They are better than Stacy Adams, or modern Florsheim, but not by much. Workboots are either disposable or will last a lifetime. There are US makers still, and they have quality reps. Find a solid pair you can maintain and they should last a long time. Chased by zombies while wearing sandals made from old tires or barefoot just isn’t the same as crunching through the detritus of a fallen city in good boots. If you do go for disposable (and I like my under armor technical boots) know that just storing an extra pair won’t help once the plastic ages out. Mil spec and milsurp are designed to be stored and still be usable so having at least one pair is a good prep. Bonus is that they fit me well and are very comfortable.

I’ll stop the list here for today. If you have something that has worked well for you put it in a comment. There are plenty of things I might add below as I think of them, this list was just ‘top of mind’ when I wrote the post. I’m already thinking of the Honda inverter gennies and DeWalt cordless tools….

Improve what you’ve got stacked, add to your stacks, organize your stacks, and KEEP stacking…


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Fri. April 2, 2021 – stuff to do, no rest for the wicked…

Cool and dry, hopefully. We’re supposed to get two nice days in a row. Yesterday was bright and sunny with cool breezes. And it got down to 51F by the time I actually went back to bed.

Spent yesterday mostly doing nothing. Drove to one pickup. Got the child from school. Went to the chiropractor and came home. Pain sucks. Chronic pain changes who you are and how you get through life. It colors everything and it’s possible to be in so much pain that you don’t even realize that you are in pain until it stops. That was the case with my lower back injury a dozen years ago. It had just crept up on me and poisoned my whole life. Fortunately I sort of accidentally got treatment, and suddenly knew what was going on. I’ve been pretty careful since then to not push it, or find myself without the means to manage the issue. Only a few months ago I found myself in that situation and vowed not to let it happen again. But it did. Ran out of my maintenance meds and suffered for it. This time I misunderstood the tele-doc and the pharmacy has not been as engaged as usual, and instead of toughing it out for a couple of days, I’m now going to be dealing with this for a week or more unless I get lucky.

What are the prepper lessons? The same old ones. Two is one and one is none. A stitch in time saves nine. Grid down will likely purely suck.

I’ve started the process to help insure that this won’t be happening again and that’s all I’ll say about that. The really frustrating part is that the meds which work very well for me aren’t abusable, aren’t even pain related, are well known and cheap, have minimal side effects, and are widely available as a vet med throughout the world. If the market was bigger, they’d be over the counter by now. There is no reason why I should have to beg anyone else for the ability to stop the pain and go about my life. And there is no reason to dole them out one month at a time. My condition is not going to improve. I won’t be needing less. I can manage my own stockpile and dosing. But I’m not allowed. The changes brought about by obama-no-care destroyed the family practice that was my primary care physician, and made my access to care more difficult, more expensive, and more time consuming.

Degradation of services that used to work well is a sign of a collapsing society. The current situation is exacerbated by the china flu and the response to it, but it was not CAUSED by it, the causes were already in place.

All of this is to say, if you have a medical condition that you are taking meds for, you MUST take steps to insure your continued access to them. Whatever the cause of any disruption, be it society wide, just a glitch in the supply chain, or your doctor is suddenly unavailable, there will be a disruption at some point. Lots of people online have discussed strategies and ways to do so for most conditions and we’ve talked about it here too. Some take more effort, some more time, and some just more money, but get started if you haven’t already. I used to have a cushion, I used it up, didn’t replace it, and now I’m paying the price.


Today, if I can manage it, I’ve got to check on some issues with my client’s site. Stuff continues to fail piecemeal from the lightning strikes, and I continue to patch it up. We are developing a plan to rip and replace everything, but as you can imagine, that costs money, and people with means, who came to them honestly and through hard work, don’t just spend money wildly. They are often very conservative and contemplative when it comes to that.


In any case, for the next little while, I’ll be focused on my physical issues and what to do about them, WHILE all the other things demand my attention too.

Don’t wait, start stacking stuff today.


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Thur. Mar. 18, 2021 – whew, missed the green beer again…and all the puking

Comfortable, sunny, breezy, and nice.  That’s what I’m hoping for, we’ll see what we get.  We had all the kinds of weather yesterday.  Overcast, thunderstorms, drizzle, sunshine, wind and rain.  We even had a few minutes of ‘very nice.’   Today, the national forecast has Houston in the clear.

Didn’t get a whole heck of a lot done yesterday, that couldn’t have been done more efficiently and more quickly by someone who was motivated.  Keeping my motivation up, and keeping moving forward is harder some days than others.  But Summer is Coming, and with it the most common threat around these parts- hurricanes.  Also on the way are un- somethingly hot and humid days.   I’ve got a limited time to do a bunch of stuff that is SO MUCH easier when it’s not in the 90s for both heat and humidity.

I feel a bit like I’m going through one of those periods like RBT did when he kept posting that he probably wouldn’t be posting  much, but then he posted more.  I keep saying the same thing every day- “I’ve got so much to do” but then I don’t do it….   grrrr.  External deadlines… I need them.

I built three or four careers around meeting externally imposed deadlines.  It’s in my blood.   Internally imposed?  Not so much.  I’ve never been good at that.  My 10 year plan took me 15 years.   I did eventually accomplish it all, but it was both simple and complicated.   Get my finances in order.  Find a good woman and marry her.   Buy a house.  Start a family.    Simple right?  15 years to get there from where I started.

Live through whatever is coming and get my family through it, doesn’t have the same concreteness, and yet it’s an arguably simpler goal.  After all, it’s mostly just “continue living”.  And how hard can that be?  Weeeeelllllll, that depends, doesn’t it?  And it strikes right to the heart of a preparedness lifestyle.

“Live through” – but implied is not just survive, but do it with style, without drama, with simplicity and grace.  Succeed, not just endure.  Coming out the other end as a starving refugee is better than not coming out, but far from the ideal of being in a position to thrive when things get better.

“Whatever is coming”- bad things are ALWAYS coming.  Good things too and sometimes people forget to prep for them, but mostly we prep for the bad things and figure the good things will work themselves out.  Hurricanes and floods are the most likely natural disasters here.  But personal bad things- job loss, accidents, illnesses, death of a loved one- are the most common disasters everyone faces and if you aren’t prepping for them, you should be.

What other bad things are coming?

–Global pandemic was on the list but not top ten.  Ebola convinced me to take the possibility seriously and to prep for it ‘for realz’.  H/T to Aesop for that.  And HEY LOOKIE!  Global pandemic is here.  I’m in restocking mode, but I could still be comfortably pulling TP from stock after a year, and that’s with three females in the household.  How much is too much vs now you have none?  You will have to find your own balance, but I’m usually on the side of ‘more’.

–Slow economic collapse, worldwide depression.   RBT changed my mind about this, and changed my planning horizon.  Now I think we’re already started on this one.   It’s harder to prep for because the length of time involved is so great, and because the number one prep – piles of money – doesn’t work so well with the most likely cause, ie. hyperinflation.  There are steps you can take and preps you can make though.  Unless you like the taste of domestic animals and the local fauna, food is your best prep.  Putting your stored up life energy (ie. the product of your work) in something that will survive a currency collapse is a good idea too.  If you can’t get your stored up life (money) somewhere safe , or if you haven’t managed to store much up, you need to look for ways to use what remains  to continue working through a collapse.  Rental income streams were my go-to plan for that, but I didn’t factor in a government that would steal from the landlords.   I’m busy rethinking and looking for additional streams.  Skills involving making and repairing are looking pretty good.

–War.  Internal or external.  Both are bad.  Both involve hardship and privation.   Internal would also include economic collapse.  External might involve a currency collapse, or might be triggered by more monetary trickery, or it could pull the economy up out of the dumps.  So many flavors are possible, with contradictory effects.   Very little of it is likely to be good on an individual level though.   Internal war is looking more and more likely every day, with Balkanization being the most likely outcome.   Where you are is going to be VERY important if that happens and your number one prep.

There are other bad things that could be coming, some far more unlikely than others, but not impossible.  First contact with aliens would be a game changer, for example.   It’s also unlikely to go well for us, but most of the things that would be likely to happen get covered by preps for the other biggies.  Room temperature superconductors, fusion energy, radical life extension, those might fall into the ‘good thing’ column but would also be disruptive as heII.  True AI, self aware machines, grey goo, killer plagues, all somewhere on the list of things to consider, and then usually discount.  CME, EMP, space debris impacts, other ‘hand of God’ events, well, we’ll do what we can if something that big happens.  Having preps won’t hurt.

And then there is that last part of my goal- get my family through.  The everyday part of this is just to raise my girls to be competent human beings, and to make sure they have a good foundation for their lives on their own.   The prepping part is a bit more specific, but mainly for me it comes down to skills, attitude, and foundational beliefs.  What I think those should be would fill another few thousand words, and maybe I’ll spend the time to write those words down, but that will have to wait.  Right now, getting my family through means the physical stuff- preps in the traditional sense.   It means making sure we have the basics to survive and thrive in the most likely scenarios, and even some of the much less likely ones.   It means resilience and flexibility and adaptability.  It means stockpiles of stuff, and collections of skills and reference materials.  It means paying attention to possible threats, local and national and global.   It means engaging in the world around us with our minds and eyes open.  And it means planning for what comes next and putting resources in place to support those plans.

And of course it means STACKING.  Start stacking.  Keep stacking.  If you can’t stack stuff, stack knowledge and skills.   Stack people, relationships, networks.  Do it as a hobby.  Do it as a social activity.  Do it with passion, or with calculation and focus.   But Do It.

It’s never too late to start, it’s always too early to quit.


added— welcome to any new readers!  Most of the best part of this place is not me, it’s the people who come together here and the conversation that happens.   Keywords are on the right, and may refer to the comments not the post, so always take a look at the comments.    Comments are always welcome, join the conversation if you like.   There is an astounding breadth and depth of knowledge in the people who come by and visit and hang out.  If you have questions or answers, please feel free.   There is an About link at the top of this page to explain why this place is the way it is.  Again, welcome.

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Fri. Feb. 19, 2021 – 02192021 – is a bit weird…. the reality of the day is certainly weird.

Cold again, after temps rose above freezing for a WHOLE DAY in Houston Texas…  this globull warming is killing me.

It was 28F when I went to bed.

I spent yesterday doing silly things so you don’t have to.  Strike that, I’m too short to fill those shoes.

I did do some experimenting, which I duly chronicled in the comments yesterday evening.  The clothes came out clean and fresh smelling, and the kerosene heater I tested worked fine- except for being out of kerosene.   I swear I have a white and yellow round 5 gallon can somewhere, but I couldn’t find it when I went looking.  If I was desperate for heat, I’d siphon some from my other construction heater.  I’m not desperate at all though, so I’ll just buy some the next time I see it.  I like flexibility and redundancy for heat, water, and cooking.   Honestly, all the other things too, but especially those.

I helped out several neighbors with plumbing issues and did some of my own.  What made it possible was having the parts in storage.   The local stores are empty of the kinds of things people need right now.  Even pros can’t get parts.   I’m a firm believer in having stuff you might need close by where you can lay hands on it.  Like what?  You know your gear and your stuff better than me, but I’ll list some here to start you thinking…

Plumbing parts.

I think you should have a variety of fittings and some pipe on hand in a couple of pipe sizes.   They should be whatever you have in your house, and what is common in your area.   Besides fittings and pipe, you should have the glues, tape, solder, and tools to put the parts to work in a simple repair.   You should also have a toilet seat, toilet tank flush system replacement kit, toilet bolts, and a wax ring.  You should have some of the flexible hoses to connect faucets and the toilet.  Some of the quarter turn shut off valves, and a spare hose bib.   Plumbers putty.  Sprinkler parts if you have sprinklers, replacement heads, riser pipe, sharkbite repair fittings, and some sprinkler pipe fittings too, as well as at least one valve and solenoid.  You should have some garden hose repair ends, and some other hose parts like washers and nozzles.  If you have gas appliances, you should have at least one ‘gas appliance installation kit’.  All of this and more will fit in one flip top bin…

Electrical parts.

You should have a couple of light switches, outlets, and at least one GFCI outlet that match what’s in your house.   25ft of Romex or similar for wire.  Replacement ends for extension cords.   10ft of lamp cord and lamp repair parts, like a harp, a bulb socket, and a 2 prong plug.  You should have light bulbs for all your fixtures.   Tape and wire nuts.   Next level, have a spare 20amp breaker for your panel.

Automobile parts.

At least one complete oil change for each vehicle.  Replacement windshield wipers.  A tire plug and patch kit, and a tire inflator.  One headlight bulb.  One set of tail light bulbs (assuming your vehicle uses bulbs).  One complete filter change (air, cabin, oil).   Spare fluids, including the “leak stop” ones for each system.  Fuses that match your vehicle.  If you can swing it, one set of mounted spare tires, but at least one extra tire (can be used, or one you took off, it’s an emergency backup after all.)

General repair parts.

Screws, nails, bolts, nuts, washers, “plumber’s tape”, bailing wire (rebar tie wire); glues (white glue, yellow woodworkers glue, cyanoacrylate (crazy glue), gorilla glue, five minute epoxy, and JBWeld metal repair); tape- masking, blue painters, good duct tape, electrical tape (3M only), zip ties, aluminum tape for ducts; a couple of 2x4s, and half a sheet of 3/4 plywood.  Depending on where you are, you might want a piece of window glass and a glass cutter with a can of glazing compound and some points.  Drywall compound and a leftover piece or a patch kit.  And paint.  Kilz primer, and some spray cans in black, white, brown, tan, your house color, and one florescent color.  White latex interior paint or whatever your walls are.

Sewing and clothing repair parts.

This is a whole separate topic, but a selection of needles, stout black thread, a couple of buttons, shoe goo, a roll of velcro, some safety pins, and a few buttons salvaged off stuff you threw away are a minimum.  I have  18″ of black thread on a needle wrapped around the golf pencil in my altoids tin everyday kit.  SUPER handy to fix some web gear, or a tear.   I also have a kit of iron on clothing patches in my travel bag for quick fixes of tears in clothes.   ‘Fusible interfacing’ is like an iron on glue for cloth and can be used to hem pants, or attach patches.

And finally, buckets, lids, and plastic sheeting in clear and black.

It’s a big list but it doesn’t have to all show up at the same time.   I bought most of mine at yard sales and estate sales, or by picking up more than I need when I go to the hardware store for a project.  It took a while to build up a fairly comprehensive stack…

Ideally you already know how to use those parts to make simple repairs, but if you don’t, there are several good books on household repairs.  Home Depot and lowes both have a display rack with some of the books and you can leaf through them to see what level they’re aimed at..  and Goodwill almost always has several of those types of books on the shelf.  But even if you don’t have the skills, knowledge, or desire, you might need to have the part so that someone else can do the work.  That is certainly playing out here in Houston this week.


The usual caveats apply, seek out expert advice if you don’t know what you’re doing, read books, watch videos, watch home improvement shows on tv, and consider what could go wrong before undertaking something new.   That said, there is tremendous satisfaction in fixing things, and they are already broken, so sometimes you might as well give it a try.  And sometimes, you might be the only one available TO try.

Keep stacking!  It works!



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Thur. Feb. 18, 2021 – losing track of the days…

Cold again, supposed to get a hard freeze tonight.   Yesterday felt colder than it was.   With the sub-freezing temps, it was very dry, but with the advent of the melting and the rain, humidity was HIGH and the damp cold felt REALLY damn cold.   (srsly, some of you are laughing but it hurt it was so cold.)  35F at 930pm down from 38F and higher during the day.

As I figured I would, I got the chance to help out a couple of neighbors.  (We are a neighborhood.   I live on a cul de sac, and about half of us are ‘chat in the street, talk about the kids’ friendly, especially after the storms and hurricanes, etc.  The other half we just never see except to wave as they drive by.  And that is a bit of an issue but not one to solve in a day.)

I helped the family across the street get their 1950s era gennie running.   It ran in the summer but wouldn’t start now.   There were a couple of minor things, the metal piece you touch to the spark plug to shut it off was too close to the plug and was grounding it out and there was water in the fuel and carb.   Drained a half cup through the carb and float bowl, reset the idle speed, and it fired on the 5th or 6th pull.   Ran pretty well too.   Put my meter on it, 57hz and 115v – so, well within range to be expected.   Small engine repair is a real world usable skill and being able to get and keep your gear running could save your life.   Youtube probably has someone fixing exactly your problem, but to learn small engine trouble shooting and repair in general, and be entertained by a guy who loves what he does, spend some time watching Mustie1.

Did a welfare check on the elderly couple down the block and found out  they didn’t have heat, or a way to cook food because of the power outage, so I brought them a gallon of already hot water, a single burner coleman stove, and a Mr Heater Little Buddy .  Unfortunately it looks like that single burner Coleman is out of production.   That is a real shame because it stores easily and uses the same bottle as the Mr Heaters and Coleman lanterns.    My wife loves it for Girl Scout camping.   I’ve picked up a couple at yard sales or estate sales and there are two on ebay for crazy money.   If you were going to standardize on 1 pound propane bottles, I’d recommend a small stove that uses the bottle, one of the Mr Heater Buddys, and maybe a lantern (and only because you won’t be caught with dead batteries).

The lantern is iffy, because the Streamlight lantern is so good, I can’t really recommend anything else as a serious area light.   Anything you’re going to be moving around with you and setting in different places will always be safer if it’s not fire.   I have a dozen of the cheap little battery powered LED lanterns from Costco, the kids use them at camp and around the house as toys.   They actually work pretty well, and like cheap flashlights, buy a bunch and scatter them everywhere for convenience.  But for disasters, when you need light, I love my Streamlight Siege.  Mine normally lives on the floor beside my bed within easy reach.  My wife loves her smaller Siege too.

Later in the day I got a call from my buddy about borrowing a space heater.    I loaned him the one from the garage.   It would have been pretty hard to say no to a friend with kids just to heat the garage (not that I would have.)  It does bring up a point.   Having multiples of items isn’t just a good idea for redundancy, what with two being one and one being none.  Unless zombies are eating people on your front lawn, you are probably going to want to help people in your circle/tribe/etc if you can.  Unless it’s truly TEOTWAWKI, people WILL remember your help or lack thereof, and it would be an extraordinary individual that wouldn’t look for payback later.   Just sayin’.  Help where you can.  Build your community.   Later you can help them build their own resilience.

Plan for today is more of the same, with some additional experimentation if possible.   We’ll see if I get to it.  And I just realized I was going to do a “why the 5 gallon bucket is the preppers multitool” post, but got completely sidetracked by my life…   Jeez, it’s like I’m on instagraam jumping around shouting “look at me!!!” in a bikini.   Now try to get that image out of your head.  You are stocked up on eye bleach right?   😉

Keep stacking.   And ask yourself the question I never asked about storms in winter, “What if the disaster comes when I’m NOT expecting it to?”


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Wed. Feb. 17, 2021 – interim boring details, and hotwash

Ah, sweet sweet internet….

On my dual screen pc at that!

Ok, here’s the rundown on yesterday.

Big gennie (gasoline, generac) died around 4 am. I was asleep and didn’t wake. I had fueled both gennies at 230am before bed. Honda died at 808am and I got out of bed to deal with it at that point.

Wife was up after 4am and did the ‘run the hot water until the wall cavity warms up and the cold runs freely’ and ‘flush the toilets a couple of times to keep their lines moving’ dance until I got up.

She pointed out that across the street had power and I should try that before restarting the gennies. Did that and LO! we were back up. No cell or internet service though.

Got some breakfast and looked at the machines. I really expected ERCOT to rolling b/o us in a couple of hours so I wanted to be back up. Honda was dry, so that was just my bad-overestimated the run time. I did wake up at 750am and think “I should refuel before they die” but didn’t. I fueled it up and it restarted easily. I removed one load in the house but kept running the oil filled space heater in the garage. No need to add my garage heat to the TX baseload while people didn’t have power…

The generac still had fuel. About a half tank of milky fuel. It looked funny when I filled it at 2 am, but I put that down to weird lighting. The fuel seemed thicker, ‘oily’ in the way it flowed, and not clear. F me. Bad fuel. The honda had enough good fuel to run anyway when I added the bad, but not the generac.

Put the fuel issue to the side and did a bunch of chores. No cell or internet.

Gave one oil filled heater to the neighbor to put in his attic to thaw his pipes. They left around 130 in the afternoon so the house was cold for 16 hours… not good. Saw that my sick neighbor had his son over, and with power on, I didn’t worry about his breakfast.

Went back to draining the bad fuel. Very sluggish coming out of the petcock, so yep, it was nasty. My hand fuel pump took me a while to find, and it didn’t want to work so I just let the tank drain slowly. Made plans to go to my rent house and meet the tenant, thought the power was on and wanted to be there for the pipe test… but before I could leave, my sick neighbor’s brother came out and told me my neighbor’s wife had died that morning in recovery from her emergency surgery. (did I mention his wife had a ruptured bowel and needed to get emergency surgery? I think I did.) I would not be surprised if my sick neighbor didn’t just give up and pass in the next day or so. They were married 55 years and the chemo is killing him faster than the cancer.

Then before I could leave, the other neighbor had water pouring out of a light fixture… so they needed help fixing the busted pipe. I gave all the supplies to yet a third neighbor, who helped him do the repair (I checked when I finally got home.) It paid to have a bunch of plumbing supplies stacked and waiting…..

Finally threw 4 empty gas cans in the truck and headed out. Sweet jebus. Plenty of slick spots on the otherwise dry roads. As I got out of my area, the power was still out, and all the traffic lights were blinking red. SEVERAL cars managed to get wrecked, with one sideswiped and ping ponged up onto the median… I saw people just cruising thru lights too. LOTS of people on the street. When I got closer to my rental (Heights part of Houston) the lights were just out. That made for some interesting intersections…

Met with my tenant, house was 36F inside, no power, no heat. We shut off the water and drained the pipes. He headed back to a friend’s place, I went by my secondary to pick up a bag of snow melt salt. Yeah, why the he77 did I buy a bag of salt in Houston? No idea but I did- at an auction a couple of months ago… that’s how my life works. For what it’s worth, the box of Morton’s Kosher salt did the trick on the front walk, and where I needed it, just fine. It will be nice to have bigger chunks in places though.

Headed home on surface streets, but a different route than I took to get there. Any fast food place that had power had a line of cars out the lot and onto the street. Ditto for gas stations. I kept driving, figuring I’d eventually find a station without lines. I did. Got all my cans ready, reached for my wallet, and, I left it at home. Carry pistol too. I was so scattered trying to get out of the house I messed up. No consequences this time but of all the times to be driving through those neighborhoods, and to not have any resources with me…

Made it home, armed up and grabbed money and wallet and went back out. Took three tries to find a station that was taking credit cards. I had cash but didn’t want to stand in line, and didn’t know how much gas I needed. There were LOTS of angry people yelling and cursing that it was CASH ONLY. Worth taking note of that. Filled the cans and got home. I wanted fresh gas for the night. I’ll go through the stored fuel in the daylight and warmth, and cycle it through my truck if it is not too bad, or pump off most of it and leave the water in the bottom of the can… I just don’t have time today or tomorrow and there is gas at the store. Note to self, REALLY need to rotate the stored fuel more aggressively.

Back working on the generac. I really wanted it running before I lost the daylight in case we lost power again  (it’s the 220v that feeds the house so that we have heat).   There was still a LOT of bad gas in the tank that wouldn’t flow out. I took another look at my pump and fixed it, then used it to pump out the bad gas. Used the new gas to rinse the tank several times, then pulled the carb bowl and let the new gas flush the line and the carb. Put it all back together and it started on the second pull. That generac ROCKS once the carb is clean. It’s just unfortunate that you have to clean it before every use… I’m VERY familiar with that gennie since I’ve been fixing it since y2K… The note there is you should be familiar with your critical gear, and know how to keep it running.

Then it was time to do a bit of snow shoveling before a dinner of jambalaya with sausage… one pot meals are great when you have limited fuel or time or water for washing up. Delicious and filling.

And then I got caught up on the comments and wrote this…

Today should be more of the same, with more helping neighbors and less running around. I hope.



The honda EU3000i is quiet, started right up, runs well, is QUIET, and is worth every penny. The only down side is lack of 22ov output. You can get two and link them for 22ov and I will consider that. I’ll definitely watch for another in the auctions. The (out of production) generac is rock solid and has been my saving grace several times. I don’t take good enough care of it but it still performs when needed.  The liquid cooled commercial Generac whole house gennie is only effective if it’s actually INSTALLED. Procrastination is a b!tch. Resources and time are limited, but it makes no real sense that I’ve had it all this time without connecting it. That’s just dumb, and a huge fail. So much of the angst and additional effort could have been avoided if I could have just switched that on and let it run.

Having multiples of things and having repair materials ON HAND can turn a disaster into an inconvenience. I had the oil filled radiators for YEARS in storage and never used them, but they sure made it easier to stay warm during this disaster.

The Mr Heater Buddy series ROCKS. Absolutely the easiest way to get heat in a disaster, or when you are away from home. HIGHLY recommended. And buy a case of bottles per heater… if you need them you REALLY need them. A full bottle lasted about 4 hours on the low setting. Besides helping my neighbor, I used one in the back bathroom to warm ME when using the throne, and to keep a room that’s cool on the best of winter days warm enough protect the pipes. Grab and go heat. Super handy.

The aphorism that you must help yourself first in order to help others proved out during this disaster so far. We were able to feed, warm, and help neighbors with repairs because we were in good shape. Even for (crusty selfish old) me it feels good to be able to help.

We’re not through it yet, but so far we’ve kept up…

Even really unlikely things can happen, so keep stacking….


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Fri. Sept. 4, 2020 – wow, the week zipped by

Slightly less hot, less humid- unless it rains.  Might be on the edge of a system and see some rain.

I spent yesterday morning on tax paperwork, and in the afternoon I worked on my gennies.

So I now have one working generator, one that runs but still needs a bit of love, and the big one that is still sitting there.

Most of the parts for my generators came in and it was not stifling hot out, so I headed out to get my hands dirty.   I started with the Honda eu3000is.  I replaced the O ring in the carb, cleaned the gas petcock, sediment bowl, and cut off the in tank fuel filter. Since I had to drain the tank for that, I wiped out the whole tank.  There was a little sediment, but the tank is designed with space below the petcock for sediment and water to collect.   Honda puts a lot of nice design touches on their high end product.   After that I tried to fire it up, without success, but when I looked in the tank, I noticed that the gas I used was cloudy with water.  Got that out, got a new can of clean gas.  Put that in.  Tried again, and it started on the first pull.  Now it runs. So I also replaced the spark plug. The fuel level indicator and battery arrived while I was working and I didn’t know, so those will go in later.

The problem now is rough running due to too much fuel. And when I use the bowl drain, there is air in the fuel coming out, so maybe there is air in the fuel line. Not sure where that could be coming in, maybe I’ve got a tiny leak around the petcock, or maybe the flow rate without the fuel filter, and with only a little fuel in the tank allows air to get sucked in with the fuel…  I can get it to run well by almost closing the petcock. Removing the air filter and box doesn’t make much difference, so I think it’s too much fuel, not too little air. I suspect someone adjusted the carb to run with the blocked fuel filter, and now it’s way too rich. Problem is, I don’t see how to adjust the mixture. Off to youtube I guess.  I’m not doing anything tricky until I have a new fuel filter installed anyway.

I shifted over to the old generac and cleaned the fuel tank out. I ordered a ‘dryer hose lint brush’ which is a round brush on a very flexible shaft to use as a scrub brush inside the tank. It’s a plastic tank but had sludge and some rust in it. The lint brush on  a cordless drill worked very well.  I’ll be using it on other tanks I’m sure.  Several rinses with old gas and it was sparkling inside. I installed the new petcock, put the tank back on and tore into the carb. I was expecting carb trouble since I didn’t drain it. And I was right. Water got in, and there was rust in the main chamber which froze the throttle plate closed. Most of a can of carb cleaner spray, some judicious scraping with a pick, some scrubbing with a pad, a couple of jets removed and cleaned, and everything went back together. It started on the second pull and ran smooth. I installed the new gas cap /fuel level indicator. It’s about 1/4 inch too long, but it works. I’ll change the oil and spark plug later. For now though, I’ve got a running gennie again. That gennie was a Y2K purchase, and first got used during Rita. It ran daily for 14 days during Ike. Still runs great with essentially no maintenance other than the obligatory carb cleanings. Heck, it sits outside most of the time. They don’t make them like that anymore.

Small engine repair, achievement unlocked.

I still need to have someone come out and get the big gennie running and connected.

Baby steps.  Making forward progress though.

I’m supposed to take a load to my industrial auctioneer today.  I have to call him first, which will give him a chance to beg off, and my wife needs to go to the office for a couple hours, right in the middle of the day, which blocks me from leaving the house for that time.  I really hope I can get a load delivered given all that.  I’ve still got a big pile of stuff waiting to go to my more ‘household and estate’ auctioneer too.  They’ve been so busy with off site auctions that they’ve had no time for my consignments.  Stuff is piling up waiting to leave, and it adds to everyone’s stress level.

I put the remote sensors in the freezer part of my new fridge/freezer, and in my “new” upright.   Stuck the receiver/display on the metal back door of the house.  It’s reading current temps (3F and 4F) and my next step is setting alarms.  I guess I’ll have to read the tiny little instructions… at least I can see the temps in all three freezer compartments and the fridge compartment without opening the doors now.

I guess I’ll be looking at the danged dishwasher next too.  There is always more to be done.

I consider it all practice for hard times.  (which are coming, btw…)  I’ve watched a lot of youtube vids of small engine repairs, electronic repairs, car repairs, even shoe repairs…  I’ve done a bunch of it too, learning the stuff they invariably leave out.  Most of it doesn’t take a bunch of tools, or a giant brain.  It does take a willingness to try and a humbleness to be open to learning how.  Try something outside your comfort zone.  The rewards go beyond saving money.

We’ve got robots and machines as force multipliers all around us.  We need to keep them running though, if they are to help.  Doing at least some of it yourself makes you more resilient, more ‘anti-fragile’, less a pawn, more independent.  And you’ll find a whole new list of stuff to keep stacking.


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