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.


Wed. May 13, 2020 – Friday the 13th falls on a Wednesday this month

Rainy and wet. [so wrong, 76F and sun is out]

Yesterday was nice, but humid. Really humid compared to the last couple of days. We got actual rain too, after dinner and sporadically all night.

I did get some stuff done, but no where near what I would have liked. I’ll keep chipping away at it though.

I did receive checks from my auction of the full face PAPR respirators. Made decent money on them. They went at slightly more than my low estimate. Also got paid for some items I couldn’t ebay. It wasn’t a ton of money, but it was money.

Dinner was elk roast. Details in last night’s comments. The central part of the roast was very similar to an eye round beef roast. The cooking, texture, and taste were very similar. Sides were the heat and eat shelf stable bread, and the root veg from the roasting pan. Dessert was Easter candy. I found a half bag of chocolate candy left over from Easter. Hooray!

I mention it in comments yesterday, but I’ll repeat it here. Wound care uses a LOT of supplies… even something as simple as a badly scraped knee. I restocked my medicine cabinet with wound wash, and kerlix from the deeper stores, but then went online to buy more. Some of what I wanted was out of stock everywhere but the arbitrageurs on ebay, and they were short. There were substitutes, but I’m taking it as a sign that things are tight. Supply chains are still disrupted, and demand might be higher than normal.

Check your stock of normal things that aren’t food. Do you have bandaids? Razor blades? Cosmetics and soaps? Gauze, nonstick pads, wrap, tape? Wound cleaning liquids? How about sewing supplies? Got needles and thread? Fusible liner? You might need to repair your high speed low drag web gear if the zombies beat you up. Is there something you usually just order when you need it? Time to check and see if it’s available.

Do you have some repair supplies in general? Crazy glue in different viscosities? Shoe Goo? 5 minute epoxy? Wood glue? Duct tape? Cellotape? Electrical tape? If we really are headed into a big downturn, repair and reuse is going to be important. How about expendables for your vehicles/mowers/garden tools like wipers, belts, air/oil/gas filters, a replacement pull rope? Oil, additives, Sta-bil?

Flints for lighters, butane, lighter fluid? Baling wire? Twine?

Further down the list but important, this home isolation looks like it will be continuing for a while yet, even if things don’t go to sh!t. Do you have playing cards, board games, dice? How about a Hoyle’s book of card games? Pens, pencils, paper? Art supplies? Software to replace something you play online? (My dad loved to play spyder solitaire on the pc, but win10 made it online only. I had to figure out how to install the games pack from win7 so he could play what he was familiar with.) Wife got out the watercolors and did some painting with the girls today for ‘art class”. We love puzzles, so I buy them at Goodwill if they are unopened. The mom’s club in the neighborhood has a puzzle swap going on for those who were not prepared. I find puzzles to be very soothing.

There’s a million things our grandparents or even parents would have kept on hand, just to save a trip to the store, if for no other reason. Think about your tool box or junk drawer, or anything you’d like to do if you had some extra time on your hands. Might want to get that stuff now, if you have the time and funds, and your “sustain life” stuff is all in order.

I’ve got to stop slacken and get back to stackin’…


Thur. June 28, 2018 – what again??

79F at 720 says “yes again, and harder too” for Houston.

I didn’t link directly to this story when it was reported, because I was waiting for more info, like why he was targeted at 330am. But now I’ll link to Peter and thru him to Ferfal….

““This is the worst kind of crime against a family,” Sheriff Troy Nehls said. “Three crooks forcing their way into a home in the middle of the night is appalling. To make matters worse, they accosted a 7-year-old child. They’re cowards, to say the least.”

Nehls said the father kept telling the intruders there was no money and to take jewelry or a car, but the masked men weren’t satisfied.”

Like peter and ferfal, I think we’ll see much more of this, as we have imported people from places where it is much more common, and despite the Dow doing well, the economy in general is still tough for most people.

So, what can you do?

Don’t flaunt wealth. Keep in mind that someone else considers wealth might be much less than what you do.

Be aware of your surroundings. LOOK for cars following you, LOOK for cars parked in your area with people in them. This guy was targeted. Someone found out where he lived. My neighbor that was at the Y while her home was burgled believes targeting is the only thing that makes sense. The staff at your local haunt may be trustworthy, or not. They may have a brother with a gang problem, or who is a junkie.

Vary your routine.

Harden you home. Lock the dang doors. Install simple upgrades to strengthen entrances. Install more complex upgrades if appropriate. [added some links below] LOOK at your home when you return from a trip– is anything out of place?

Harden your heart. Make the decision about your response ahead of time. It’s not just you or your money at risk. The cop calls the attackers “cowards” which is the same knee-jerk name calling as with terrorists. They are not cowards. They are a lot of things, but afraid isn’t one. Trusting in the goodwill of someone who has ALREADY threatened to hurt or kill you is a REALLY bad idea.

Arm yourself and become at minimum familiar with the use of the weapon. Better to get actual training in its use. Keep it close to hand. Your physical security measures are meant to delay attackers while you arm yourself.

Consider having “give up” money or jewelry. I have an envelop of cash in my desk drawer. It looks like more than it is, and is my “here, get out, it’s all I have” wad. Same for my money clip when I’m out of the house. I’m not suggesting “do whatever they say and you’ll be fine” but I AM suggesting that a level of compliance gains you time, space, and helps gauge their intent. It can also provide the distraction you need to defend yourself.

Beyond all this though, you need the mindset that this stuff happens. Right here in your town, in your home, in your area.

Like terror attacks, mass shootings, or natural disasters, IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU. Take steps.


[edited to clean up the writing.]

Monday, 18 July 2016

09:37 – Lots of interesting responses to the preparedness level thought experiment I posed yesterday, both in the comments here and via email. The typical level was about what I expected, somewhere between a couple weeks and a couple months. Some longer. Some much longer. The limiting items crossed all categories, from water to food to shelter to power. Interestingly, very few people answered my question about how comfortable they were with their level of preparedness and what, if anything, they were actually going to do about it. If you haven’t answered or would like to amplify your answer, leave a comment or send me an email.

Two of my shiest readers, Jen and Brittany, were among those who replied via email. As I expected, Jen’s answer was that her family of six is prepared pretty much across the board for one year plus, with backups to their backups. Brittany says her family of four is good at this point for probably two or three months, with food the limiting factor. They haven’t received the foil-laminate gallon bags from the LDS on-line store yet, so they have lots of bulk staples sitting in bags awaiting repackaging, and plan to buy still more of those this week, along with a lot of canned goods. Her guess is that they’ll be up to six months by the end of July and a year by the end of August.

Brittany brought up powdered eggs, which are kind of an odd situation. Back when I bought our initial supply (about 84 dozen worth), I paid about $17 per 33-ounce #10 can for Augason Farms whole egg powder from Walmart. With the chicken plague last year, that price shot up to ridiculous levels, over $50/can for a while. Meanwhile, the chicken population has recovered to the extent that eggs are a drug on the market. From a high of nearly $3/dozen wholesale last year, the price bottomed out at $0.55/dozen wholesale a couple months ago. It’s now recovered to just under $1/dozen, but that should still make powdered eggs pretty cheap. When I looked several days ago, Walmart was still charging over $30/can for Augason Farms eggs, when they should be about half that. (It’s not Walmart; the retail price on the AF site is still very high.) Brittany asked about Walton/Rainy Day powdered eggs. Their #10 cans hold 48 ounces rather than 33, which is pretty odd in itself, and their retail price is about $30/can. Resellers list it at $22/can or so, which is actually cheaper per ounce than I paid at Walmart before the chicken plague. But both the Rainy Day website and reseller websites list it as out of stock. Not sure why that is, unless preppers are stocking up in bulk. And I note that the Rainy Days website lists a 10-pack of #10 cans of powdered eggs at $150, or $15 per three pound can. Also out of stock, of course.

Brittany is also concerned about cooking/baking in a long-term emergency, so she was considering ordering a solar oven. There are several popular models out there, most of which sell in the $250 to $400 range. I told Brittany that in my opinion that’s a lot of money for not much product, and I thought she’d be better off making her own. She can make a functional solar oven from cardboard boxes, shredded newspaper, and a sheet of glass or plastic. If she wants a more durable solar oven and is willing to spend a little money on it, she can get her husband to knock something together with some boards, plywood, black spray paint, and aluminum foil.

In my research on solar ovens, I learned something I’d never considered. I always thought a solar oven used a transparent cover made of glass or Plexiglas, but many solar ovens just use simple plastic sheeting (like a disposable drop cloth). I recently ordered a 10-pack of True Liberty Goose Bags. They’re US-made, 18×24 inches (46×61 cm), food-safe, and rated for use up to 400F. The double layer of plastic with an air gap provides excellent insulation, and should allow a box oven with reflectors to get up over 200F even in cold weather. The Goose Bags are large enough to make a good size solar oven, cost under a buck apiece, and I’d rather use them in an emergency than be pulling windows off the house.

One of our upcoming minor projects will be to knock together a solar oven from boards and Masonite that I can use to test temperatures. I’m told that one can even bake bread in a solar oven, although it may take several hours and may not brown well. A solar oven also gets hot enough to kill microorganisms in water, so it’s a good option for water purification.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

07:48 – An email from a reader prompts me to suggest an interesting thought experiment. Assume that you are sitting reading this blog one morning when a catastrophic event occurs. All of your utilities fail–electricity, municipal water and sewer, natural gas, landline and cell phones, TV and Internet service–and there’s no prospect that any will be restored anytime soon. It’s the worst possible time of year for this to happen. You’re just entering the cold days of winter (or the scorching days of summer, depending on which type of extreme temperatures is the threat where you live). The stores are closed, if not looted and burned down. Gas stations are no longer operating. Your garden is dormant, so you won’t be getting any food from it for months to come. Assuming for the sake of simplicity that your family are all at home, that there aren’t any bands of roving looters, that neither you or any of your family have a sudden medical emergency, and that a bunch of family or friends don’t show up at your door expecting you to share your supplies with them, how long could you survive in your own home without any inputs whatsoever?

You’re limited to whatever you actually have at home at this moment. No running to the store for groceries or to the gas station for fuel. If you’re on well water, you’re limited to whatever water you have stored, can pump without outside electricity, or can capture from your downspouts. If you’re on utility water, it’s just what you have stored plus whatever rainwater you can capture. The only food you have or can get is whatever is on your pantry shelves. If you’re dependent on prescription medication, you’re limited to whatever you have in the house right now. So–no cheating here–how long could you survive without any outside inputs? What is the limiting resource?

I suspect that most US citizens would be able to make it on their own for three or four days, if that. Most of the readers of this blog would probably be able to make it for anything from a couple of weeks to a month. Some longer.

I sat down and tried to think things through for Barbara, Colin, and me. For us, my answer is one year plus, although things would become increasingly uncomfortable as time passed. At the moment, our most pressing shortage is of toilet paper, which is why I just added a couple of 36-roll packs to our Costco list. Of course, that’s not really critical because I have plenty of personal cloths for us, and plenty of bleach to sterilize them between uses. Yucky, but not critical. Another thing we lack is firewood. We have about half a cord sitting out back. But if it came to it, we wouldn’t need to heat the whole house. The woodstove is in the unfinished area of the basement, and half a cord of wood would keep that area reasonably warm for a long, long time, as well as providing a flat hot surface for cooking. And there’s lots of wood around us, including probably 20 cords or more of growing trees on our southern property line. Green wood isn’t great for heating, but it’ll do in a pinch.

So, where are you in terms of personal readiness level? What’s your limiting resource? And, whatever your answer, are you comfortable with that amount of time? If not, are you going to do something about it, or are you just going to keep thinking about doing something? Honest answers, please.