Thursday, 27 July 2017

09:14 – It was 68.1F (20C) when I took Colin out at 0700, bright and sunny. Barbara left at 0830 to head for Winston. She’ll run errands today, stay with Frances and Al tonight, and then head back tomorrow, making a Costco run on the way home. For Colin and me, it’s wild women and parties, as usual. And PB&J sandwiches for dinner, as usual.

From toilet paper to bottle management. Like most American households, we buy a lot of things in disposable PET bottles. Unlike most households, we don’t discard them. (I count throwing them in a recycling bin as discarding.) The only PET bottles I ever discard are those that are hopelessly stained by spaghetti sauce, and I discard almost no glass bottles that come with reusable tops.

Many preppers save 1-, 2-, and 3-liter soft drink bottles. (Not the cheap, thin water bottles; soft drink bottles only.) In fact, many preppers have all their friends and neighbors save soft drink bottles for them.

They’re easy to wash/sanitize. Just dunk them in sudsy water and invert them to drain. You don’t even need to rinse them afterwards. In fact, doing that makes them dry much more slowly than if you just let the sudsy water drain completely. The leftover dish detergent in them totals something in the picograms per bottle. It’s immaterial.

The 1- and 2-liter bottles are useful for bulk LTS storage, hampered only by their narrow mouths, which make it difficult to transfer “fluffy” stuff like white flour to them. (The 3-liter bottles have a wider mouth, and can be filled easily by using the top half of a 2-liter bottle as a funnel.) We use the 1-liter bottles for things we store or use in smaller amounts–repackaged table salt, herbs and spices, baking powder, etc. The 3-liter versions are now much less common because they don’t fit on most refrigerator doors, but we have 50 or so of those that are 20 years old or more. We use and re-use them for flour and other bulk grains. If you find a source for 3-liter bottles, grab as many as you can.

Barbara drinks a lot of Tropicana orange juice, which we buy in the 1.75-liter screw-top bottles (rather than the snap-top pitcher bottles). Frances and Al also buy juice in those bottles, which they save for us. Full to the top, the 1.75-liter bottles hold right at half a gallon, which is a useful amount. In fact, I just filled two of them earlier this week with hulled sesame seeds. Each holds right at 1 kilo, or 2 pounds, 3.3 ounces of the sesame seeds. (Interestingly, the 5-pound bag of sesame seeds I ordered from Walmart had no best-by date anywhere on the packaging.)

Then there are the 1-gallon PET bottles that Costco sells its store-brand water in. Empty, these are excellent LTS food storage containers. They hold roughly 7 pounds of bulk foods like rice, flour, sugar, etc., so you need only 7 or 8 of them to repackage a 50-pound bag of staples. Their mouths are noticeably wider than a 2-liter bottle; a 2-liter bottle funnel is almost-but-not-quite-a-slip-fit, which still makes it a lot less messy to transfer bulk dry foods into them. And, to top it off, the Costco labels are easy to remove and leave no sticky residue.

We’ve been buying Costco bottled water for 10 or 15 years, originally in the 40-packs of 500-mL bottles, then starting a couple of years ago in 1-gallon bottles, once they started carrying them, and most recently in the little 8-ounce (237 mL) pocket-size bottles. Barbara drinks tap water most of the time, but bottled water sometimes. I’m going to encourage her to start refilling the smaller bottles from 1-gallon bottles rather than putting all those little bottles in the landfill. That’ll also give us an ongoing supply of the useful 1-gallon bottles.


Email from Sarah, whom I hadn’t heard from since late April. She and her husband, Peter, are in their late 20’s and were relocating from a big-city apartment to a house on ten acres in a rural area of SW Virginia, three hours or so west of us.

They closed on their new house on May 1st, and have spent the last three months getting settled in to the new house and their new jobs. They still have boxes stacked and awaiting unpacking, but otherwise they’re hitting on all cylinders.

One of the first things they did was drive to the LDS Home Storage Center in Knoxville and haul home 50 cases of #10 cans of bulk LTS food, as well as a bunch of supplemental stuff from Costco. They had so little spare time that they decided to pay the higher price at the LDS HSC rather than spend time they didn’t have repackaging bulk food themselves.

They got a late start on it, but they have a garden in that’s starting to produce. It’s mainly experimental, to see what works and what doesn’t in their new environment. In his copious spare time, Peter is building a chicken coop and rabbit hutch. They have ten acres, about evenly split between fields and a wood lot, so they’ve purchased a small, elderly used tractor to work it. They’ve also bought and installed a wood stove and a supply of firewood, which is sufficient for their basic cooking/baking and heating needs.

They opted not to buy a generator because it’s a temporary and unsustainable solution. Instead, they bought 800W of solar panels and the other components necessary to build a solar electricity setup adequate to provide their basic power needs, although that stuff remains stacked until they have time to get to it.

Sarah has also dipped her toe in the water with pressure-canning. She ordered a canner and other supplies and has started canning vegetables and meats that she buys on-sale locally. She’d never canned anything in her life, but their nearest neighbors are a middle-aged couple and the wife is showing Sarah the ropes.

Overall, they’re both happy with their progress to date, although much remains to be done. They’re delighted with their new home and their new community. Like most people who move from an urban area to a rural one, they’re impressed by how friendly and helpful everyone is.

Monday, 24 April 2017

09:18 – It was 45F (7C) when I took Colin out at 0715 this morning, gray and drizzling. We’ve had 4.5 inches (11.4 cm) of rain in the last 24 hours, and more than 6 inches (15+ cm) over the last three days. That’s basically a month’s worth of rain in three days. And it’s still drizzling.

The more I read about Costco’s and Amazon’s politics, the more I think we should be patronizing Walmart and Sam’s Club instead. The former two are just what one would expect from companies headquartered in coastal Washington state, while the latter two are what one would expect from companies headquartered in fly-over states. The former are major supporters of the Democrats, Obama, and Clinton, while the latter are major supporters of the Republicans and Trump.

There’s no real difference to us in terms of convenience to patronize Costco versus Sam’s Club. The nearest outlets of both sit a block apart in Winston-Salem. Sam’s Club actually carries a wider range of items, although both carry items that the other doesn’t. Neither has free shipping on many items, although Costco has more items available that way than does Sam’s. Sam’s free shipping is limited to a few classes of home electronics and (bizarrely) motor oil. But Sam’s also has free shipping on most Augason Farms products, which is a point in its favor.

I think I’ll talk to Barbara about re-joining Sam’s Club and making most of our warehouse store purchases there. I’ll find out what she gets at Costco that Sam’s doesn’t carry, although I think that’s pretty much limited to fresh meats. Sam’s carries meats, of course, but I’m not sure about their quality versus Costco.

Another email overnight from Sarah. They close on their new house in Deplorable-land a week from today, and have been packing like mad. She says it’s amazing how much stuff there is in their apartment. They’d initially intended to hire a moving company to transport their stuff, but when they got quotes they decided just to rent a truck and move it themselves. Better them than me, but at least they’re young and fit. They’ve arranged with friends to have a moving party and help them get the truck loaded up once they’ve officially closed. I’d offer to go over to their new place and help them unload, but it looks like it’d be a five or six hour round trip on back roads.

* * * * *

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

09:21 – It was 55.3F (13C) when I took Colin out at 0700 this morning, partly cloudy and breezy. Barbara just left for the gym. This afternoon, she’s headed down to Winston to meet friends for dinner. She’ll stay with Frances and Al tonight and then run some errands and head back home tomorrow.

For more than a decade, I’ve been doing what I can to encourage young people to pursue careers in science. Long enough now that I periodically get emails from parents and students who’ve gotten not just undergrad degrees in science, but graduate degrees and jobs in science. It doesn’t seem that long, but kids who got started as middle- or high-schoolers with one of our books or kits are now in graduate degree programs and some are actually employed as working scientists. Here’s the latest bit of cheerful news, this one from the Royal Society of Chemistry. My life in science: the good, the bad and the ugly

Email overnight from a young woman who’s been reading my blog for several years. She and her husband met as freshman undergrads, he majoring in pre-Med and she in nursing. They married immediately after graduation. She became a nurse and put him through med school. He finished his residency as an internist a couple years ago, and they both work at the same hospital in a large city in the Northeast.

Both are originally from smallish towns, and both want to get away from urban life and find a home in a smaller town where they can raise a family. Her husband has been offered a job in a small town practice in southwestern Virginia and has accepted the offer. The local hospital always needs nurses, and has offered her a job. So they’ve made two trips down to look for a house. They found what they were looking for, put in an offer, and it was accepted. They close the first of May and are now packing up their apartment in preparation for the move.

It’ll be a big change from urban apartment life to living in a large home on 10 acres with a barn and other outbuildings, but they’re both looking forward to it. She’s really excited about the prospect of having a horse again, as she did when she was a teenager. And she’s already planning her new chicken coop.

Her email to me ended, “Oh yeah. In case it isn’t obvious, Peter and I are serious preppers and our move is motivated as much by our desire to live somewhere safe as our love of rural life.”

Escape to the Country, indeed. Good for them.

* * * * *

10:47 – I just got the following email from Dreamhost, which hosts this site and other various domains:

Our monitoring systems show that your site is frequently reaching the technical capacity of its hardware.

Hey there! Our monitoring systems show that your site is frequently reaching the technical capacity of its hardware. When this happens your website crashes and becomes briefly unavailable as we automatically restart it.

Here are the website usernames and how many times they were restarted within the last 30 days:

<my username>: 120

You have a few options at this point:

Upgrade your hosting to a fully managed Virtual Private Server (VPS). This will give you plenty of power tailored to your site’s exact needs.

Optimize your web apps and web content to be less resource-intensive. You may want to enlist a skilled webmaster to help you.

Take no action.  Your site will continue to run up against its hardware limits, but if you’re okay with it we are too!

This is not a high-traffic site, so my guess is that it’s one of the plug-ins that’s sucking CPU ticks. I’ve already deleted the Search Everything plug-in. I installed that only because Google had stopped indexing blog comments. They resumed indexing comments some months ago, so that plug-in was obsolete anyway. Google or another search engine gives better results anyway.

If I keep getting notices like this from Dreamhost, I’ll start disabling other plug-ins, so you may notice some changes in how the site works.