Wed. May 12, 2021 – still sore, still got stuff to do

Well, yesterday never did get stormy, and was partly sunny for most of the day. The 40mph wind was cool enough, when it blew, but the rest of the time it was a bit on the stifling side. Temps dropped 10+ degrees while I was cooking dinner and the wind was variable and gusting hard, but the rain held off. Today is probably going to be similar with a bit more chance of rain.

Yesterday I met with the new auctioneer’s rep and we’re good to proceed. I’ve got to get a space either cleared, or in a neighbor’s space to set up the pallets so we can get some listed. It’s back breaking work and I’m in no condition for it today.

Went to the chiropractor and got some stuff to move. Will try to get in today too.

Went through some stuff in my storage unit, getting ready to take some bins to the other auction.

Today I need to do a Costco order or run, and a couple of auction pickups. More supplies for the house, and not resale. I can fit it in my Expy if it’s raining, if not I’ll use the pickup just because it’s easier.

Then pickup child 2 from school mid-afternoon. Both kids are doing STAAR testing this week. That is the big Texas progress evaluation test. In reality the questions are whacked out. NO idea what they are trying to evaluate, other than reading comprehension. All the questions come down to that. Still, you can’t improve if you don’t measure, but it would be nice if they were measuring the right things.

Anyone waiting in line to buy gasoline because of this pipeline issue, is measuring their preparedness, and if they’re in line, they are coming up short. The general recommendation for storing gas is one full tank for your bug out vehicle, or one week of disaster usage for your generator, whichever is more. The amount is a bit arbitrary, but there are reasons and rationales for it. Too tired to list them atm, left as an exercise for the reader. Think ‘the amount of time it takes to get outside help into the area’ and ‘leapfrog the locusts’ on the way out of town. It’s also a good example of why people suggest always filling up at 1/2 tank instead of running dry (which is not something I routinely do, because I’ve got MORE than 1 full tank stored.)

In any case, you and they might have some stacking to do.

nick

Sat. May 8, 2021 – local local local

Supposed to be another nice day. Yesterday was perfect. Gorgeous. High in the low 90s in the sun, cool in the shade.

I WASTED that beautiful day. I should have been out reveling in one of the last nice days before a hot summer, but I was doing stuff inside instead.

I did get a meeting set up with the ‘bulk’ auctioneer for next week.

I got my truck reloaded with my work stuff, got the phone connected, and some of the Sync stuff set up. I moved some other auction stuff around too.

Not much on the list though.

Today I have my non-prepping hobby meeting, and quarterly swapmeet. I’ll be taking one or two things that I don’t think will sell, but I’m willing to try.

After that, I’ve got an auction pickup- two hand trucks and a small chest freezer. Yup, deal was too good to pass up. I’m going to try flipping it to one of my friends, or our Rec Association. The hand trucks are always useful.

Then it’s off to the Rec Association for the spring Clean Up day. There is a general call for members to help get the place in shape after most of the winter with minimal maintenance outside of the pool. Two plus acres of wooded grass needs some work in the spring, as do all the outdoor items.

All of those things are local community building things, as well as being good for me and the family. They strengthen bonds with other people and especially with our neighbors. Those are good things at any time, but especially if hard times are coming.

Spend some time stacking up friends and acquaintances as well as canned goods. You won’t be sorry you did.

nick

Fri. May 7, 2021 – no star wars reference today. sad face.

I’m hoping for another beautiful day. Yesterday was gorgeous.

Prayers and best wishes for friends that are hurting.

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Didn’t get a lot of stuff done yesterday. My back is right on the edge of being hurt again. Just picking up 5 pounds causes twinges. Today I’ll go see the chiropractor.

I have noticed that the garage is staying cooler, with the attic exhaust fan running in the afternoon. The garage isn’t much (if any) hotter than the outdoor shaded areas, and that is a huge improvement.

Spent almost an hour yesterday chatting with my gun store buddy. They are really struggling, with very little inventory, a few consignment guns, and only transfers to keep the lights on. This is despite being in the middle of one of the hottest gun markets of all time. If you can’t get inventory, you can’t sell it.

That problem is starting to show up elsewhere too. If a store or a more narrowly focused vendor can’t get product, they can’t earn a living. Big stores or stores with a lot of SKUs can pivot to fill holes, or just rearrange shelves to cover for the missing items, but smaller vendors and suppliers that provide a more niche product are having real trouble. All those car and truck dealers that count on new inventory to entice people to buy are going to have real issues when none is forthcoming because of the chip shortage. Something similar is bound to happen in other markets too.

I think we are at the beginning of a time when if you see something you need or might need, or know of someone who needs it, you better grab it while you can. Yes, this can reduce supply for others. Judge your need, then decide, realizing you might be deciding to do without later if you decide to leave it for the next guy.

You should consider increasing your stocking levels of stuff like that too. If you normally only have a month’s worth, maybe 3 would be better. Or if you have 6 months supply, consider a year’s worth. Don’t count on being able to get what you want in a year’s time. And for some things, that really isn’t much of a burden, like kitchen trash bags. A roll of 70 lasts us a year. Two boxes on the shelf doesn’t take much space or money, and I know we’ll have bags for the next couple of years. Another consideration is that you might be able to get the category of item but not the specific one you like, forex- toilet paper a year ago… so if brand, size, or scent is important, get it now.

Welcome to the new normal. Start adjusting your mindset from abundance to scarcity.

Stack it high.

nick

Thur. May 6, 2021 – the revenge of the sixth…

Cool and nice, like yesterday. Granted it did get warmer by late afternoon, and in the abundant sun,but it started cool and was cool in the shade. Not exactly dry, but nice.

Yesterday was a mixed bag of getting stuff done. I did get my two pickups done, one by IAH one by HOU, so not exactly efficient for gas or time, but many useful household things were acquired at bargain prices. It was a ‘pick the child up from school’ afternoon, so that limited my ability to get things done.

I did start loading stuff back into the Expedition. I still have to go through my work tools and supplies and cut back where I can and organize the rest, but I could throw all the bins into the truck and go to work tomorrow if needed. I have insurance coverage on the new truck, and the sirius/xm radio should be activated. Still need to pair my phone, do any updates to the OS and apps, and mess with the Sync functions of the ‘info-tainment’ system.

I really need to get the pickup truck in to the repair place. The problem is, it’s my ‘work’ truck and I generally load a bunch of stuff into the back at least once a week if not more often. Everything I have on my list at my secondary location requires the pickup. I’m going to have to suck it up and just get the repairs done.

One big difference between my old Expy and the new one, the old one had the shifter on the steering column, and a HUGE center console. The new one has the shifter in the center, and a tiny little console, with part of the space taken up by a power point and two usb ports. I don’t think I can even get a locking container into the tiny little thing. Aside from the storage issue, there isn’t any room for a ham radio or scanner. There was tons of room in the old truck. I’m trying to find room behind the dash or behind other panels in the new Expy. I can remote mount the control head for my dual band radio and bury the main body wherever it fit, but it’s just that much more work. If I don’t do it as part of ‘moving in’ to the new truck, it probably won’t get done though. Lists, I’ve got ’em.

Speaking of radios, the scanner was chock full of encrypted traffic for the last couple of days. HPD on their ‘tactical’ channels, and on their ‘homeland security’ channels, squawking all day. I can’t understand the traffic, but I can note the increase… and Baytown has been running disaster training scenarios on the radio all week too. Good to know they’re working on rescues and multi-victim structure fires. That SCBA gear sure makes it difficult to understand the firefighters on the radio but that’s a small price to pay for the lives it saves. Someone is also running surveillance on drug dealers, with a big buy op yesterday evening. If you’re not listening in to your local action, you should be.

You all know the drill, get to stackin’.

nick

Wed. May 5, 2021 – Culturally appropriate, or appropriate? Cinco de drunko…

Cooler and drier than yesterday, maybe. Yesterday started humid and overcast but ended breezy and clear and very nice. I’m hoping the ‘very nice’ continues today.

Spent the morning getting my truck from the dealer. Spent the early afternoon asleep. Spent the rest of the day poking at the new machine. Given that it has a computer, touch screen, and several different interface devices, and lots of settings, I’ll be reading the manual. I hate reading the manual, and if it was a rental, I’d just be cool with whatever I could figure out in 10 minutes. Since I own it, I should probably know what all that stuff does.

Ford uses a “Sync” branded system for the info and entertainment system. It does one thing I like so far, you can sync the clock to the clock on the GPS. You still have to set the hour to match your time zone, but it’s a nice feature and speaks to the integration. It has a category for apple phone integration and android. I will probably be watching some youtube vids soon. I’ve got other stuff on the agenda for today though.

Youngest child stayed home from school yesterday with coughing that improved about the same time she was sure she wouldn’t be going in. What she won’t like is getting a ‘rona test today before class. I was sympathetic, and she was coughing and miserable, but that 10% of doubt should have been more. Little faker. Or at least little exaggerator.

Today should be eaten up with errands (pickups of household stuff) and truck stuff. I’ve got to get the truck stuff done, it’s eating time I need for other things. I really want to be all back together and ready to work when my part time business partner gets the drawings done for my client’s rip and replace. That will also mean proceeding with the auctioneer that will take pallets of stuff.

It’s a whole lot easier to sit at my desk and mess around online.

Must resist… urge… must…resist…..

So time to get going. Clear the decks so I can get to stacking…

n

Mon. May 3, 2021 – tomorrow is Star Wars Day

Today is supposed to be moderate, with a chance of rain. I’m hoping for ‘nice’ and ‘dry’. Yesterday was nice, but not particularly dry. It didn’t rain, but with all the wetness and high humidity, it was pretty damp and sweaty.

Nevertheless, I did yard work. Cut the grass, put up the bird net over the blueberry bushes, and turned over one of the garden beds. Yeah, it’s late, but I’m gonna plant stuff in it anyway. In the other part of the yard, my grape vine was leafing out, to within about 6 feet of the end, but now the leaves are dying back. No idea why. I’ll keep an eye on it, but I don’t see any reason, and there hasn’t been any change that I know about.

My wife’s tomato plants are going INSANE. HUGE growth. Lots of fruit. I like fried green tomatoes, but can take or leave red ones. I don’t think I’ll be able to convince her to harvest early though. We’ll probably have a lot more than we want or can eat as a result. I usually only plant one or three pots because I don’t love them and they don’t do well. This year looks like it will be different. Maybe it’s that they were planted in the raised beds and not pots? Or maybe it’s the used coffee grounds I’ve been adding to the beds… It would be nice to get some veg that we actually eat.*

It would be nice to have some success with the garden, period. I’d feel a LOT better about the coming whatever if I felt like I could grow some food. A steady diet of looters and rat will get old quick without some greens….

Grass soup seems to be the traditional food of a prolonged armed conflict. Every account I read, it comes down to that at some point. I’d like to think that I could do better, especially with time to prep, but at some point you run out of stuff, if you’re not growing more. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that again.

However, since I don’t seem to have a green thumb, I better buy another flat of canned veg. And stack it just that much higher…

n

*holy cow, that paragraph is choppy. No flow for me today. I hope my usual writing isn’t that choppy.

Fri. April 30, 2021 – might have the family home this weekend after all

Warm and humid, possibility of rain, and flooding. Yesterday was part sun, part overcast, no real rain but some spatters. Today could be bad, depending on where you are.

Which is why my wife might cancel her Girl Scout camping weekend. We have one kid sick with sore throat, cough, and sniffles (but no covid), and the counties between here an camp are under flash flood warnings, with a weekend of rain in the forecast. I don’t think any one of those things would be enough, but all of them might make for a no fun, higher risk, weekend. They are supposed to be doing canoeing, and stargazing, and night hiking. Not likely during thunderstorms.

So I might be home, I might be working, I might be nursemaid. I’ll just be flexible and see.

Electrician is supposed to come by Saturday, and I’ve got some prep work to do, but not if it’s pouring down rain.

Yesterday I ran a couple of errands, and refilled some 1 pound propane bottles. That was interesting. I got much better results than the first time I tried it. We had a dozen empties after the big freeze, and my wife wanted to take a couple camping, so I got out the hose and got to work. I’ve got a hose/regulator/valve from amazon, which I’ve linked before. The chinese ones come and go, and brands are kinda ‘fluid’ so it’s hard to make a recommendation. There are lots of videos on youtube with techniques. I found that turning the BBQ bottle up side down, and holding the 1 pound bottle upside down worked the best. I could hear and feel when the propane stopped flowing. You just make the connection, turn on the valve, and after the flow stops, close the valve and remove the hose. Move on to the next bottle. Then, you need to release gas pressure from the bottles (you could use a propane torch with a valve, DON’T LIGHT IT, or just use a chopstick or other device to open the valve in the bottle. I let out a bit of gas, and then when you reconnect, more propane will flow into the bottle. I used a kitchen scale to weigh the bottles and monitor both how much I release, and how much got added. Starting with an empty bottle at 14 oz, I got about 3 oz fill each time, while letting off gas pressure reduced the weight 1/8 to 1/2 an oz. Do this a few times and the bottle will be at 1 pound 10 oz or more. That’s where I stopped, because a bit of that spattering rain started.

Now, messing about with propane is dangerous. I’m not suggesting anyone do it, and all my comments are for ‘entertainment’ and not instruction. Do whatever you do at your own risk. It’s NOT recommended to refill those 1 pound bottles. I definitely do recommend adding the brass screw caps to any bottle you’ve refilled or to any bottle that is partially used and removed from a device. Check them for leaks with soapy water (bubbles or foam mean it’s leaking.) Don’t store them inside or in enclosed spaces.

It’s also undeniable that refilling the bottles seems a whole lot less wasteful than just disposing of them, and cheaper too. Do what YOU are comfortable doing. I will refill the bottles at least one time, and more if the valve seal continues to close reliably. Keep in mind you’re venting propane gas as part of the process. Do it outside on a mildly breezy day, away from any potential ignition sources. Don’t breath the propane. Having watched the big bottle refill process many times, and seeing how much propane is released by that process, I’m not worried about what little gets released when you mount and dismount the little bottles.

I’ve got a bunch of the BBQ bottles. For a while I was buying them at estate sales whenever I saw them. They store indefinitely, as long as the valves are good. I’ve got conversion hoses and fuel filters for my Mr Heaters, the refill setup, and I think I’ll get a propane conversion kit for my Honda eu3000i gennie too, as that would give me another option for fuel. In addition to the BBQ bottles, the little bottles are very handy for stoves and lanterns and heaters (and hoses are available to adapt the BBQ bottles to Coleman stoves and lanterns if desired). Whether you refill them or just buy new, they are very handy to have around, and even handier if you can refill them. Add them to your stack!

One of the beauties of “camping” is that it lets you ‘stealth’ prep. I’ve got a bunch of camping supplies, and a family of Scouts, what’s suspicious about that? And because camping gear is all designed to sustain life away from your home, it’s great preps…( and it has deniability if needed – “oh that? We used to camp but we haven’t used it in ages…”) Like the old CB radio and the fishing gear on the shelf, it just looks like typical garage stuff at first glance. And that might become more important as time goes by.

So keep stacking, or you’ll find yourself lacking…

nick

Mon. April 19, 2021 – a fresh new week, hoo boy, let’s get to work

Cool and damp, probably no rain, but it was scattered spatters of rain most of yesterday, and the forecast was for dry…

I got a bunch done yesterday. All little things, but several that were much easier in 60F weather than 90F.

I cleaned and seasoned 3 cast iron pots with lids. Those will go to the auction. They were Goodwill Outlet, so $1.20/ pound. I’ll make decent money on them and I like saving things like cast iron. Didn’t take long with the angle grinder and wire wheel, followed up with oil and a good bake. One piece is modern, the other two are vintage.

I hung another IR illuminator for my cams. This one points in the same direction as my latest camera and should light up half the street. I didn’t get the power hooked up yet. I got side tracked while going through a bin of wall warts, and ended up powering up several other things that have been kicking around waiting for power supplies. I’ll get to the illuminator soon, and in the mean time, the other things can either be put into service or put away, or sold.

Did a little bit of work in my attic. I moved all the light bulb holders to be above my head level. Since I store stuff up there, I’m moving around at least a few times a month, and I’m always afraid I’ll hit one of the bare bulbs with my head, slashing my face open. It didn’t take long and has been on the list for quite some time. I also put the Easter decor away and checked the rat traps- no rats.

Put another bin of auction items together.

Did some cleaning, poking around, and arranging in the garage too. And I wired the attic fan to a plug. I was going to put a receptacle in the attic for it and a work light, but didn’t have the right j-box, so for now it’s just a cord plugged into an existing outlet. I’m really hoping it will help keep the temps in the garage down. I need a Home Depot run to do some replenishing of plumbing supplies and any veg seedlings, so I might as well get a couple of j-boxes too.

The tomato plants are lush. There isn’t any other word for them. My wife is crowing about her success (I get one or two tomatoes from 3 or 4 plants every year, not a strong suit.) I’m claiming it’s the used coffee grounds I’ve been adding to the beds 🙂 The grape vine continues to leaf out, as does the peach tree. The frozen citrus is still not showing any signs of life. I’m starting to believe it was all killed, which is very disappointing.

I tried something new for dinner. I sautéed frozen shrimp with minced onion and bacon crumbles, and then used a can of Campbell’s Cream of Shrimp soup as a sauce, serving the whole thing over rice. Tasted good to my wife and to me, and the kids loved it. Quick, easy, low fuel cost, and a real change of pace.

Today if the rain holds off, I’ll be taking a pickup load to my industrial auction. I will have no trouble filling the truck. Then I’ll swing by Lowe’s and pick up the fridge for my rent house. Maybe I’ll even get that installed if I hustle. We’ll see.

And out there in the world, we’ll see how soon it all falls apart. The recent spate of shootings, the lawlessness in MN, OR, and NYC, a Congresswoman inciting riotous crowds that then shoot up an NG unit, lions and tigers and bears… oh my. It seems like the violence is accelerating and escalating.

Keep improving your position, and keep stacking…

nick

Mon. April 12, 2021 – a whole new week, a new beginning … [music plays]

Cool, damp, and breezy. Or warm, dry and breezy. We had both yesterday at different times, but it was generally a beautiful day. Not too many more of those before summer starts to kick our butts.

And then it will be hurricane season, which is predicted to be heavy. I bet they’d be a lot more cautious in their predictions if they were publicly flogged when they were wrong. Just sayin’.

I did get a bunch of small tasks done yesterday so it wasn’t totally unproductive. It wasn’t as much work as I thought I might get done though. I’m still having periods where I just don’t feel good. No idea why, but it’s frustrating. Call them hot flashes. Don’t really feel like exerting myself during them. If it doesn’t clear up in a week, I’ll make an appointment, but it’s not really like anything I’ve experienced before.

Today I’ll be doing more cleanup. I’ve started making visible progress and that helps motivate me, and convince my wife stuff is happening. Twofer!

Maybe I’ll get enough done to spend a few minutes on another project, getting some air guns ready for my girls. I’ve got a bunch of old pump .177 BB and pellet guns, and they need cleaning and paint or they need to be sent back to the auction. I need to move them from where they’re stacked anyway, so maybe… Sometimes having a bunch of little tasks I can peck away at makes sense, and sometimes it would be nice to focus on one thing for 8 hours. I worry sometimes that I’ve lost the ability to do that, and I used to be good at it. It’s been a while since I just cranked away at the same thing all day.

There are some things that need to be done in the garage too. I have gotten rid of some stuff to make more room for other stuff… and that needs to continue. Before it gets too hot, I need to get my A/C unit outlet wired, and the exhaust fan. I had the roofers install the fan, but haven’t had a chance to run the circuit and hook it up. Most nights are cool, but the garage holds the day’s heat, so it will help keep the temp down if I can just exhaust the hot air and draw in some cool air at the end of the day. Once all that’s done, THEN I can move some of the food shelves to the garage. There is always something to do before I can do the other thing…

So I should get the kids off to school and quit playing around on the intarwebs and get busy…

(and get busy stacking)

n

Fri. April 9, 2021 – and now we’re one step closer to CWII, thanks Joe!

Warm and sunny, with a small chance of rain, or hot and sunny, I’m reasonably sure it will be one or the other. It was sunny and warm yesterday, but so humid that puddles in the driveway wouldn’t dry. I was soaked with sweat pretty quickly after going outside. Sunny and beautiful, but not pleasant.

Spent a couple of hours napping. I just felt really wrung out, and was falling asleep in my office chair. Since that hurts my neck, I just went back to bed. I’ve done that more in the last couple of months than in the last couple of years. That is not necessarily a good thing.

The rest of the day was eaten up with small tasks. I got a mounting arm for my last camera cobbled together. I put the mount for the mount in place on the chimney. And I got the camera configured, along with the NVR software. Even though the cam is sitting in my office, I am looking at image from it on my NVR. Since getting that camera in place and working moved to pretty near the top of my list, it felt like a good day.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was devoted to cooking our belated Easter dinner. I was able to use mint and rosemary from the garden to season the lamb. I also used some instant potato packets from 2014. They were a bit orange, as the butter flavor coloring changed with time, but after adding some cream, butter, and bacon crumbles, the mashed potatoes were perfectly fine as an accompaniment to the lamb. I had one box of envelopes that tasted “old” and then this box that is well within acceptable range for taste. Same age, but one got more heat than the other. Heat is the killer of stored food.

I have decided to increase my stored bulk rice and flour beyond where it is now. It’s relatively cheap, and things aren’t looking better world wide, in fact our pResident seems to be actively working to make them worse. (And of course I don’t believe it’s him at all, but whoever is pulling the strings. It’s convenient to blame him, after all he’s sitting in the big chair, and that way I don’t need to type all this every time.) I think when I did the math, if we were eating it every day, one bucket of rice would last one month, and 50 pounds fits in a bucket. I’ll double check later today and update. So, 10-12 buckets of rice at $25-$40/bucket for the year. I haven’t priced bulk rice in a year, and it varies by grade, producer, and availability. If someone here is using rice every day (roughly) please add your usage observations.

Flour is much harder to judge because I do almost nothing with bulk flour. I’m going to guess at 10-12 buckets per year for that too, because it’s cheap, so why not.

I’ll need to add a few gallons of vitamin E stabilized peanut cooking oil too. That will actually be the most expensive part.

Those three things, and some salt, comprise most of the traditional ‘poor people’ food the world over, time without end. Some type of powdered flour, some rice, some cooking oil, some water and salt, and you have basic calories that can be added to with whatever is available. RBT called them “iron rations” and it never seemed very appealing to me. I plan to have lots to add to them, but they are the base load. It’s time to build up the canned storage too.

We’re currently eating canned corn, beans, peas, and a few other things that I panic bought during ebola-14, and the vast majority is as good as when I bought it. There are exceptions. High acid foods don’t survive as long in cans. Pineapple, tomato products, some other fruit, they have swelled up and/or popped. Dry mixes with a high fat content also tend to taste “old” once past their best by date. In our climate, dried food in boxes picks up an “old” taste too soon too– Kraft mac n cheese I’m looking at you.

The way I’m looking at it, maybe we WON’T need enough stuff to stay home for 6 months to a year because of a pandemic…. and maybe we won’t need to supplement our shopping with stored food for a year or two, while the economy and security situation stabilize. But what if we do? Food security is cheap insurance.

So stack it high.

nick