Friday, 3 February 2017

10:03 – It was exactly freezing when I took Colin out this morning, with a slight blizzard: no wind and an occasional snowflake visible.

There’s been discussion in the comments lately about the suitability of various areas for preppers. Of course, for many preppers relocation isn’t really an option because of job and family responsibilities. For many others–those who are retired or wealthy or can earn a living anywhere–the question is where it is safest and best to relocate.

There are any number of sites on the Internet that purport to rank the states by suitability, and I looked at a lot of those before Barbara and I relocated back in late 2015. Michael Snyder has one of the better sites, where he ranks and grades the 50 states. He awards an A to only Idaho, a B+ to Montana, and a B to Alaska, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

I decided that none of these sites were useful, mainly because they broke everything down by state, which is a dumb way to go about it. For example, other than the fact that they’re both in Virginia, the far southwestern part of the state has nothing at all in common with the DC metro area. In terms of population density, the latter area earns an F in my book, while the former is very close to an A. Also, Snyder and many others consider the presence of nuclear power plants to be a downcheck, when in fact it’s a very good thing to have power  plants nearby that are independent of fuel resupply. And so on.

I’m not as good at multivariate analysis as I used to be, but I gave it a shot. The first thing I did was draw a circle of 50 miles radius around any metro area of one million or more population. Anything inside that circle was out. The next thing I did was overlay that map on another map that showed annual rainfall, which I used to rule out arid areas unless there was reliable surface water readily available. I continued doing that with various key criteria–such as percentage of land devoted to agriculture, politics, gun laws, etc.–until I’d eliminated most of the US land area.

What was left was large areas of the midwest, basically most of Kansas and Nebraska, along with non-arid parts of Idaho, Montana and the Dakotas. That and the Blue Ridge/Appalachian mountains of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee.

Barbara and I actually seriously considered the Montana/Alberta border area, but neither of us had ever lived in the West and Barbara much preferred to move to somewhere closer to where she grew up and where her friends were. Thus we decided on the Blue Ridge mountains and eventually on Sparta.

Not that prepping was our only criterion. We both liked the idea of rural/small-town living, where people are friendlier and the customs are much more traditional. Basically, we now live surrounded by Deplorables, and that’s just the way we like it. The inconveniences are minor, and more than made up for by the general lifestyle. If shopping is limited, who cares? There’s always Amazon, Walmart, and Costco on-line, and there are plenty of big-box stores within a two- to three-hour round trip.

* * * * *

Friday, 29 April 2016

09:55 – Barbara and I made our final working trip to Winston yesterday. We did stuff like mopping floors, reinstalling receptacle cover plates, and installing four foo-foo generators. This was the first trip that we didn’t haul back a Trooper load of stuff, because the house is empty and everything is already up here or gone to the dump.

This is the first time in more than a year that the whole house hunting/packing up/moving/unpacking thing hasn’t occupied much of our available time. We’re moved, and that’s the last time we’ll ever have to go through this. Now we can devote our time to making and shipping science kits, and I’ll finally have some uninterrupted time to work on the prepping book.



Sunday, 31 January 2016

10:37 – Another month gone, but we got a lot accomplished. When we put in an offer on our new house in late October, I didn’t expect things to progress as quickly as they did. But here we are, pretty much completely moved and settled in. Even Colin considers this home now, although he still has lots of exploration and marking to do on his new property.

Barbara hates to re-read books or re-watch TV programs, but we’re getting to the point where we’ve watched pretty much everything on Netflix streaming that we really want to watch. I have 100+ titles in our queue, but most of those are just series that I thought would be tolerable rather than things we really want to watch. So the other night I told Barbara that I’d much rather re-watch excellent series that we first watched 15 or 30 years ago than new crap, especially since we won’t remember any details. She agreed, and we’ve started re-watching Inspector Morse, which we first watched starting in the late 80’s. After the first four episodes, neither of us remembered anything about any of them, so they’re effectively new to us.

I also plugged a set of earphones into the Roku remote, which means Barbara can watch series that she likes but I can’t stand, notably anything by Shonda Rhimes. With the earphones connected, I can’t hear the audio, so I can sit and read while Barbara watches. It’s a win-win situation. I don’t have to hear these obnoxious series as Barbara watches them, and she doesn’t have to listen to my obnoxious comments on the obnoxious programs. And I suppose it’ll also work in reverse. I can watch re-reruns of Heartland or Jericho while Barbara reads. We can both watch what we want to, and we’ll both have more time to read.

Which will be nice. For the last few years, we’ve been running streaming TV from dinner until Barbara went back to the bedroom around 9:00. She’d read in bed for an hour or so, while I’d sit reading out in the den. That meant we each had only an hour or so of reading each evening. Before that, we’d often have two or three hours a night of reading, which I miss. There are hundreds of books currently on my TBR and TB re-R lists, and I’d like to get back to reading at least two or three books a day.

Speaking of which, Kindle Unlimited is an amazing resource for heavy readers. It has an immense selection of both fiction and non-fiction titles. A lot of the self-published stuff is garbage, but a lot of it isn’t. Which reminds me that I need to put a new Kindle on my to-buy list. My current one frequently skips ahead two pages at a time, and it gets annoying to have to do the page-back/page-forward shuffle constantly. It’s not a hardware issue, unless both of the page-forward buttons have just coincidentally developed the same hardware problem at the same time.

I’m going to do a hardware reset on my Kindle to see if that fixes the problem. Before I do that, I’ll use this site to build a structured list, organized by collections, of the titles I want to reload after the reset. And after the reset, I won’t tell the Kindle how to connect to our WiFi, because connecting to WiFi reproducibly crashes both Barbara’s and my Kindles, requiring a hard reset and reload each time. The other advantage is that the battery charge lasts much longer with WiFi disabled.

Even if the hard reset fixes the page-turn problem, I’ll probably get a spare Kindle and load both of them up with reference books and so on. It never hurts to have important books replicated, or in my case triplicated, since I have many of the titles in hard copy as well.



Wednesday, 23 December 2015

12:05 – We’re pretty much finished getting the downstairs finished area ready for use. Barbara is currently unboxing books and transferring them to the bookshelves. My office, the larger of the two downstairs bedrooms, is still cluttered with stacks of boxes, but we’re gradually getting those unpacked. Eventually, we’ll install bookshelves on the walls in here, and probably one of the 5×2-foot freestanding island shelving units to store more kit stuff. There’s a large closet, which is currently about a quarter full of long-term food storage, roughly a person-year’s worth. When we get time, we’ll transfer another six or eight cases of #10 cans of Augason LTS food into that closet as well.

Barbara thinks we already have plenty of stored food, and in one sense she’s right. As I’ve said many times, I don’t really expect a catastrophic SHTF situation, at least anytime soon. I expect a continuing slide into dystopia. But there’s a very real possibility that a trigger event like the power grid going down or severe widespread civil disorder will kick things over the edge, and supermarket shelves will quickly empty and stay empty. If that does happen–and I’d SWAG there’s maybe a 10% chance per year that it will happen–I want to be in a position to feed not just Barbara, Colin, and me for the long term, but also family, friends, and neighbors. Fortunately, we’re now living in an area that produces much, much more food than it consumes, and that production is very diverse. Everything from beef and dairy cattle to grains to vegetables to fruit to poultry. That production would no doubt be seriously impaired by a grid-down or other severe long-term emergency, but even in a worst-case scenario the area should be able to feed its current population.

It’s a drizzly, foggy day here, with thunderstorms predicted for tonight and tomorrow, so we’ll stay indoors other than running a couple of errands sometime today or tomorrow. Barbara also wants to make up a double batch of no-knead bread dough today, which we’ll bake tomorrow. A double batch will yield four standard loaves, which should carry us through the holiday. Longer, if it turns out that our guests don’t care for the moister loaf that the no-knead dough produces. But the bread freezes very well, so it’s not a problem either way.

Barbara has been doing it for years, and I finally decided to start keeping a list of books I’ve been reading and videos I’ve been watching. Most will focus on prepping, because I’m reading/watching a lot of titles that apply to the prepping book I’m (still) working on. Here’s the first entry. I’ll try to keep doing it.

  • Jericho (TV series) – By far the best of the post-apocalyptic TV series. The science isn’t perfect by any means, but the writers manage to hit all the high points and cover all the issues. There are only 29 episodes, but all are worth watching/re-watching. It’s currently available on Netflix streaming.
  • Lights Out (novel) – David Crawford’s post-EMP novel is large and heavy enough to use as a doorstop, but it’s one of the best PA novels I’ve read. Again, it manages to hit all the high points and cover all the issues.
  • Lights Out (non-fiction) – Ted Koppel’s book lays out the threats against our power grids, and the nightmare scenario that would follow a long-term grid-down event. Koppel focuses on the threat of cyberattack against the grids, but acknowledges in passing the threats from an EMP attack or a solar CME.
  • Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival (non-fiction) – Angela Paskett’s book is the best single volume I’ve found that covers long-term food storage. What few errors there are are minor, and she does an excellent job of covering the issues.
  • Survival Mom (non-fiction) – Where Paskett’s book is deep but not broad, Lisa Bedford’s book is the opposite. It’s a prepping primer that attempts to touch on all of the important issues while not burying the reader in detail.
  • 100-day Pantry: 100 Quick and Easy Gourmet Meals (non-fiction) – Jan Jackson’s book addresses an issue that gets too little attention: how to cook appetizing meals using all that LTS food you have stored. The “gourmet” part is an exaggeration, but Jackson does an excellent job. She assumes that you may be cooking from stored staples but with access to some fresh foods, but she also presents LTS alternatives for when you don’t have access to fresh dairy products, meats, herbs, and so on. We actually own two printed copies of this book. When I got the first one, Barbara flipped through it and said it looked interesting. Some time later, she asked me where it was because she wanted to try cooking some of the recipes. I couldn’t find it, so I ordered another copy. One of those copies will live in our kitchen as we try some of the recipes over the next few months.

Enough for now. More next time.


Monday, 21 December 2015

12:34 – We’re still moving furniture around downstairs, but the downstairs den is now pretty much the way Barbara wants it in terms of furniture placement. We now have five large bookcases sitting empty that we need to get books transferred onto. Those bookcases, incidentally, could be moved upstairs, where they’d make excellent gabions if push ever comes to shove.

Other than the stuff I’ve mentioned about getting science kit production ramped up, the major item on my to-do list is to get at least a basic off-grid solar setup installed. Before I do that, I need to find out whether our well pump is 120VAC or 240VAC, and find out what the start-up and run currents are. At this point, I’m assuming that a 5KW true sine-wave inverter will do the job. An 800W array, something like this one, should reliably produce maybe 2.4KWh on an average day and more on a good day, which’d require about 180AH of deep-cycle batteries to store a day’s worth of output. This would obviously be a major project in terms of time, effort, and cost, so for the time being we’ll depend on our 7KW generator.

Still no word on what happened in Las Vegas, although I find it suspicious that the authorities have not released the name of the would-be mass murderess. I’m guessing it’ll be a moslem-sounding name. The authorities have been at pains to emphasize that this wasn’t terrorism, which of course makes me think it probably was.


Sunday, 20 December 2015

14:00 – We decided to make a quick run down to Winston yesterday to haul more stuff up here. It was 1:15 down, about 1:30 down there loading, and 1:15 back, for a total of about 4 hours portal-to-portal. Frances and Al met us at the house with their pickup, and we hauled back a full pickup load plus a full Trooper load, including just about all of the remaining science kit chemicals and nearly all of the remaining food. Al and Frances left for home after lunch, and we spent the afternoon moving stuff that needed to be in the heated area there from the garage and vice versa.

We spent most of the morning working downstairs, rearranging furniture in the den. The guest bedroom is now essentially complete. We moved my new desk (a This End Up dining table) to my new office, which is the second downstairs bedroom. I now have my computer, printers, and other gear set up and working in there. There’s still a lot to be done in my office, including installing shelves and moving all my office stuff in. Oh, and I got the propane tank connected to Barbara’s new grill, which she’s going to use to make dinner tonight.

I see the Baltimore cops shot another black guy. The dumb SOB tried to rob an off-duty cop at gunpoint using a realistic-looking toy gun, and got exactly what he deserved, not that that’s likely to stop the UC from rioting. And there was another death by cop incident, this one in WS. The cops sprayed a criminal with pepper spray and he became unresponsive and ended up DOA. The dead guy’s father flew in from Denver, and is trying to stir things up. The only reason that I care is that Frances and Al are still in WS, and we still own a house there. And just yesterday at lunch, I was telling Al that although I didn’t expect mob violence in WS in the near future, he and Frances were welcome at our house here any time.


Monday, 14 December 2015

10:37 – Yesterday, for only the second or third time since I started keeping this journal about 20 years ago, I forgot to post an entry. We have so much going on here that it just slipped my mind. We still have boxes and bins stacked all over the place, and a lot of sorting/organizing left to do.

One of my concerns about this new place is the water supply. We have a well, which is fine as long as we have electricity to power the pump. Without electricity, we’d need to depend on rainwater harvesting. Fortunately, that doesn’t look like it’d be much of a problem. We have about 2,000 square feet of roof space. The downspouts connect to tubing that carries the rainwater off to the perimeter of the property, but it’d be easy enough to intercept it and capture it. All we’d need then to have a decent supply of potable water is a pre-filter, which I have all the components for, and the Sawyer PointZeroTwo filter, which I can get setup quickly. Sparta averages about four inches of rain a month, generally pretty well distributed over the month, which translates to about 5,000 gallons a month if we capture all of it. That’s 150+ gallons per day, which is sufficient even for bathing, laundry, and flushing toilets.

So, at this point, if necessary we can be completely self-sufficient. We can eat, drink, stay warm, and defend ourselves for months, and we have enough spare to provide for family and a few friends for at least a few months. We’re living in a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a good way from the big cities. That’s about as good as it gets on the East Coast. I’ll never be completely satisfied with our level of preparation, but at least we’re now at a comfortable level.

As I’ve said over and over, I don’t really expect things to go completely to shit, at least not for years, but I’ve been wrong before. And if TS does HTF, we’re at least in a position to ride it out. What I do expect is a continuing slide into dystopia, and as that happens we’ll have time to make further preparations.


Thursday, 10 December 2015

09:58 – I’m back to the point where I can ship kits. My Brother 3070 laser printer is set up, connected, and working. I have 50 or 60 assorted kits in inventory, packing materials, a tape dispenser, and shipping labels. Tomorrow morning, we ship our first kits from our new location.

We’ve still got boxes stacked all over the place, but we’ll get that sorted out over the coming days and weeks. One bad thing about the move. We apparently lost all of our firearms and ammunition. They must have fallen out of the Trooper when we stopped at that scenic overlook. Come to think of it, I do remember hearing a loud splash from the river, about 500 feet below the overlook. I’d go back and look for them, but I can’t remember which overlook it was. All we have left is two 550-round boxes of .22LR and a couple cans of .177 pellets. Those, and Barbara’s old slingshot.

At a commenter’s recommendation, I ordered a powerline networking kit from Amazon yesterday. It arrives tomorrow. All I have to do is plug the base unit in near the router/WAP, connect it to the router with an Ethernet cable, plug in the client unit near the upstairs TV, and run an Ethernet cable to the TV. That sure beats drilling holes and running a physical Ethernet cable.

I tried all of my backup flash drives. I’m able to copy the backup zip files to my notebook hard drive, but I get an error trying to unzip them. All is not lost. I have a fresh WD hard drive lying on my desk that has a complete uncompressed backup of my main system’s hard drive. I’m keeping that in reserve, though. The hard drive in the main system won’t boot, but it spins up and the BIOS recognizes it. I suspect I can just stick it in an external USB or e-SATA frame and pull all the data off it. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try the WD hard drive lying on the desk.


14:31 – I’ve got all my data back. I lost nothing at all, not so much as a single email.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

12:32 – I’m back, hitting on two or three of eight cylinders. Our Internet service is working fine, as is Barbara’s Windows notebook, but that’s about the only technology I have working at this point.

I’m typing this on my Dell notebook, which until this morning was running stock Win 8. I tried to create a set of emergency restore discs last night so that I could restore Windows to this notebook if I ever wanted to. The backup created the first disc and then died on the second disk. It did that twice, drawing down my supply of DVD+R discs from the 10 I bought locally yesterday. I finally decided to write off Windows. I downloaded and burned the new Linux Mint LTS version late last night. This morning I installed it, blowing away Windows. I was fully aware that it might be difficult or impossible to get the wireless adapter working under Linux, so I just plugged it into an Ethernet port on the router and am sitting downstairs a few feet from the router.

That router, incidentally, is the original one and is working fine. My problem getting the Roku 3 to connect to it is entirely down to Roku’s completely inept implementation of wireless networking. Every other device we have sees and connects to the router with no problem. So I carried the big TV downstairs this morning and put it next to the router. I’ll run an Ethernet cable to the Roku and everything will work fine. We’ll just have to watch TV downstairs until I can get around to running wired Ethernet upstairs.

I need to get in position to ship kits. That means getting a printer connected to this notebook, not to mention locating all the miscellany needed–tape dispenser, packing material, labels, etc. etc. Fortunately, customers have been understanding when I explain that their orders caught us in the middle of relocating. I WILL get all outstanding orders shipped well in time for Christmas.

The woodstove was delived yesterday. The HVAC guy is coming tomorrow to give our heat pump a checkover and will also install the stove. Barbara left early this morning to make a run down to Winston-Salem to run some errands, buy some stuff we need, and stop by the house to grab some of the stuff we didn’t get moved last week.

Computer-wise, this move has been a disaster. My main desktop system won’t boot. I just tried to restore my data and Firefox/Thunderbird configs from two USB thumb drives. The zip files are on the thumb drives and appear to copy normally to the notebook hard drive, but attempting to unzip them just gives an unhelpful error message. I have more backup copies on other thumb drives and two other hard drives, including copies that weren’t compressed, so I should be able to get a reasonably recent copy of my data back.

So right now I’ve got much more to do than I have time to do it. Still, the move was worth it, and this too shall pass.


Thursday, 3 December 2015

07:18 – This is my last post for at least a couple of days. In a few minutes, I’ll disconnect our cable modem so that Barbara can drop it by the TWC equipment return place when she’s out running errands this morning. Our Internet connection in Sparta should be live as of now, so I’ll get that connected and working sometime over the weekend.

As much as possible, please put any new comments here rather than with earlier posts. That’ll make it easier for me to catch up on comments once I’m up and running again.