Wednesday, 30 August 2017

09:11 – It was 60.7F (16C) when I took Colin out at 0630, partly cloudy. Barbara is off to the gym this morning, after which we’ll be doing more work on science kits. She’s spending the day down in Winston tomorrow, so I want to get the highest priority stuff done today.

Just to give you an idea of how seasonal our business is, August revenues through today total 33% of our revenues for the entire year to date, and next month’s revenues should be similar to this month’s. Things’ll slow down after that until about Thanksgiving, when we’ll have another heavy sales period that runs through mid-January.


Kim stopped by the house Monday afternoon to ask if we’d mind stopping over at Blue Ridge Electric Co-op and signing a permission document to allow them to come onto our property to do some work on the electric feed to their new house. They’re running the power feed underground and need to tie it to a distribution box that’s just over the property line into our field. We told them we’d be happy to do so, and Barbara stopped by Blue Ridge yesterday morning to sign the permission slip. It turned out she didn’t need to. As I thought, there’s a utility easement, and they don’t need our permission to access their distribution box.

Yesterday afternoon, I saw that a bunch of people were up at the house working on it, so I walked up to let Kim’s husband Ricky know that everything was clear for work to proceed. Grace was up there watching what was going on. I ended up standing there talking to her for the better part of an hour.

She’s originally from the Wilmington, NC area down on the coast, and went to college at UNC Wilmington. Her main concern about living up here is the winter weather. Living on the coast, she hasn’t seen much snow, and has no experience driving in ice and snow. I told her that, as a Northern boy, my advice was to avoid doing so as much as possible and if she had to drive to wait until the plows had run. Oh, and to keep a good stock of emergency food, bottled water, and so on in case we do get snowed in.

She seems like a sensible young woman, so I’m sure she’ll be fine. She really likes living up here in a rural/small-town environment with the laid-back mountain lifestyle. As she said, everyone is so friendly and so normal. And that the cost of living was so low here. I told her that that had been Barbara’s and my reaction as well when we moved up here in 2015.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

09:05 – It was 60.4F (15.8C) when I took Colin out at 0700, partly cloudy. Barbara is cleaning house this morning, after which we’ll do more science kit stuff. She had a pretty physical day yesterday, working out in the yard, so today we’ll do mostly inside stuff that doesn’t require a lot of physical labor. Labeling bottles and so on.

Our science kit inventory continues to dwindle as fast as we can build them, so for the next several weeks we’ll be covered up building and shipping kits. I have several thousand more bottles due to arrive Tuesday, which is just in time. We’re running out of bottles.


We just looked at the new stuff to be available in September on Netflix and Amazon streaming. There’s nothing we’re interested in, other than the latest season of Call the Midwife on Netflix. Streaming is becoming a vast wasteland of garbage.

Most of the decent stuff, series we might want to watch, is behind paywalls established by crappy little VoD streaming services like Acorn, Britbox, and PBS. We’d actually consider subscribing to one of those if they had comprehensive catalogs of British TV, but all of them play games, pulling stuff off that they should just leave available. Oh, well. There’s always torrents, although the demise of Kick-Ass Torrents has limited the selection greatly even there.


So far, the hurricane seems to be less catastrophic than feared. Only one death and a dozen or so injuries reported so far, which is a lot less than might have been expected from a Cat 4 hurricane making landfall in a heavily populated area. None of my dozen or so regular readers in the area has reported any significant damage to their properties, yet. Of course, there are three or four more days of rain expected, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed for them.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

09:10 – It was 59.1F (15C) when I took Colin out at 0620, partly cloudy. Barbara is working in the garden this morning, after which we’ll do more science kit stuff.

We stopped at the Southern States hardware and farm supply store yesterday to pick up a couple items. Jerry Francis, the former owner of our house works there. We asked him what he could tell us about our well. Not much, as it turns out. The well was there when he and Ethel bought the property and built the house, as was the well pump. He had no idea when the well was drilled or how old the pump is.

He mentioned that it’s a 110V pump, which we already knew from looking at the breaker panel, and that he was pretty sure the water table was pretty high, maybe 50 or 60 feet below the surface. That would account for the 120VAC pump rather than a far more common 240VAC pump. If the water table is in fact that high, we could probably even get away with installing a 36VDC Solar Jack Sun Pump replacement pump.

My thoughts this morning are with my many readers in coastal Texas. I hope you all get through this hurricane with your families and homes unscathed.

Friday, 25 August 2017

08:36 – It was 57.0F (14C) when I took Colin out at 0625, mostly cloudy. Cooler autumn weather is definitely arriving, here and down in Winston-Salem. The highs down there this week are to be in the upper 70’s. As usual, we’re cooler, with highs forecast to be around 70F (21C).

Barbara grabbed a couple items for our LTS pantry at Costco yesterday: a case of six #10 3-pound cans of Costco coffee and two 13.5-pound bags of baking soda. Both come already packaged for LTS, so they’re already downstairs and stowed away.

Barbara is off to the gym and supermarket this morning, followed by (you guessed it) building more science kits. As of this morning, we’re down to zero of the CK01A chemistry kits in stock. Yesterday, we built 22 of the regulated chemical bags for those kits, limited by two chemicals that we had only 22 bottles each of in stock. Barbara also built 24 more of the small parts bags for the CK01A/B kits. We have enough of all the subassemblies on hand to build five more CK01A kits. We’ll get those built today, just so we have product to ship.

After that, we need to fill chemical bottles to make up more CK01A unregulated chemical bags. Our limiting quantity on those at the moment is zero bottles of one chemical, so we’ll get more of those filled. Then it’s back to labeling and filling bottles, rinse and repeat.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

07:52 – It was 60.0F (16C) when I took Colin out at 0630, partly cloudy.

Barbara is due back from Winston later this morning, at which point we’ll get back to work on building more science kits. We finished building a batch of two dozen of the CK01B chemistry kits yesterday, so we’re in good shape on those for now. Same with biology and forensic kits. But I have four more of the CK01A chemistry kits awaiting pickup by USPS this morning, and we’re down to only three of those in stock. So the next priority is building another two or three dozen of those.


Email from Kathy overnight. She and Mike read the comments yesterday, and Mike has abandoned his plan to build an ad hoc cold storage room in the basement. He told Kathy that, in his defense, he HAD proposed it as a “cunning plan”.

He came up with the idea after seeing what we’d done here with our old refrigerator, re-purposing it to extend the shelf life of canned meats, sauces, dried eggs/butter/cheese, and so on. After reading what the commenters said yesterday, he agreed with Kathy that it was a dumb idea. Oh, well. That’s why the hive mind here is so useful to them (and to me).


I was just thinking about two contrasting views on allies: “If you’re not with me, you’re against me” and “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. I think we’re seeing a significant shift among pro-freedom people, Normals, from the former to the latter viewpoint.

In the past, even groups that seemed to be natural allies–say libertarians of different camps–fought each as viciously as they fought statists, if not more so. The same with conservatives, or any other groups considered right of center by the current definition of that term. Leftists, on the other hand, made Common Cause, so to speak.

What I see now is the right coalescing into a single group, willing to put up with each others’ different beliefs in the interests of presenting a common front against the statists/progressives.

After Charlottesville, for example, I actually found myself having some sympathy for the neo-Nazis/skinheads, something I would never have believed possible. I still deplore nearly all of their beliefs, and they’re still leftists, but at least they were out there fighting the progressive leftists.

And you see that alliance among the frequent commenters on this blog. We have a wide range of people, from devout Christians to radical atheists, and from traditional conservatives to hard-core libertarians. And yet we all seem to get along pretty well. I know I’d be comfortable with any of these people watching my back, and I’d hope they feel the same. We can beat the leftists first, and only then argue like hell about our differences. But, as they say, we’re at the point where we all hang together or we all hang separately.

So I spent some time watching videos made by a young woman whom, not all that long ago, I wouldn’t have spent any time listening to. She goes by the name of Patriot Nurse, and we have a lot of differences. She’s a traditional conservative, I’m a radical libertarian. She’s devoutly religious (Jewish, although it took me a while to realize that because she so often quotes New Testament scripture) and I’m a committed atheist. She’s an anti-vaxxer and I’m a scientist. She’s an ovo-lacto vegetarian (or perhaps a vegan; she reports her food preferences differently in different videos) and I’m an omnivore tending toward carnivore. She’s into some woo-woo medical stuff, while I insist on evidence-based medicine.

But instead of focusing on our differences while I watched her videos, I focused on what we have in common, which is a love of freedom, a commitment to the Constitution, and sympathy for the anti-Federalists and the Confederate States of America. I found that she’s worth watching.

YouTube put this video in my recommended list, so I watched it, followed by half a dozen more before this one came up.

I have never before sensed the intensity of suppressed rage that I did while watching this video. This is not a woman I’d want to have pissed at me. Her rants are more intense than I’ve ever seen. She lives three hours or so down the road from us, and I suspect there are tens of thousands of others like us between Sparta and Knoxville.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

09:16 – It was 67.9F (20C) when I took Colin out at 0645, partly cloudy.

Barbara is leaving mid-afternoon to head down to Winston. She’ll have dinner with Frances and Al, stay with them tonight, and then head back tomorrow morning, making a Costco run on her way out of town. It’s WW&P for Colin and me.

Our LTS food inventory is at steady-state now, so we don’t need much. I did ask Barbara to pick me up a case of six #10 cans of coffee, a two-pack of mayonnaise, and another case of Costco bottled water in gallons.

Barbara just headed for the gym. When she returns, she’ll finish packing up the two dozen chemistry kits we assembled yesterday, and then label bottles for stuff we’re running out of. While she’s gone, I’ll make up solutions for those.


Email from Kathy, whom I hadn’t heard from in a month or so. All of the stuff they had on order has arrived, been checked in, and shelved. The propane tank and gas cooktop has been installed. She’s done her first pressure-canning run, canning up ten pounds of sausage that she bought on sale. Now she’s carefully watching the jars, halfway expecting the lids to pop or something.

Mike has proposed a Cunning Plan, which Kathy thinks is just bizzare. He points out that they don’t have a cold cellar, and he’d like to build one in the basement by enclosing a small area, insulating it heavily, and building a refrigerator into the wall, pointed into the enclosed area. Kind of like a 21st-century version of an old ice-house.

She asked my opinion. I told her that I’m not a refrigeration engineer, but it just might work. The refrigerator’s compressor would probably have to run for a couple of days to get the insulated area cooled down and there might be some problems with temperature differentials within the space, but keeping a well-insulated larger volume cool isn’t much different from keeping the interior of the refrigerator cool.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

09:27 – It was 66.6F (18C) when I took Colin out at 0635, partly cloudy.

As usual this time of year, we’re covered up building and shipping science kits. I just finished processing five orders that came in overnight, and Barbara is standing here building another two dozen boxes for more chemistry kits.

Someone asked if anyone would post images of their long-term storage. This first one is part of our LTS food in the unfinished area of the basement. It includes stuff like 9 gallons of pancake syrup, 20+ gallons of oils and fats, gallon jugs of molasses, liquid smoke, different types of vinegar, several gallons each of prepared ketchup and mustard (for making barbecue sauce), about 60 28-ounce cans of Keystone meats, 32 12-ounce cans of Spam, and another 50 or so cans of various meats.

Here’s the refrigerator in the unfinished area, with another 100+ cans of meat, a few #10 cans of cheese and butter powder, and the remaining space filled with jars of Alfredo sauce.

The freezer is packed with #10 cans of Augason egg powder, Nido powdered whole milk, and various OTC and agricultural drugs.

The next image is a 5×2-foot steel shelving rack, which contains a lot of repackaged dry bulk foods, as well as sauces, evaporated milk, canned vegetables, and other miscellany. Just as an indication of how much is here, that small area of green bottles in the lower left corner contains 80 pounds of pinto beans, the section of bright yellow bottles on the shelf above it is 60 pounds of cornmeal, and the red-top Coke bottles on the lower two shelves contain 250 pounds of repackaged macaroni. The reason for the scattered placement of the cases of canned vegetables is that I’m using them as “bookends” to prevent the 2- and 3-liter bottles from rolling.

The image below is the closet in our LTS food room, which is under the stairs. There’s some miscellaneous computer equipment stored in there for now, but the bulk of the space is occupied by about 40 cases (240 cans) of assorted #10 cans from the LDS Home Storage Center and Augason Farms, along with some other miscellaneous #10 cans of stuff from Costco and Sam’s Club.

These pictures don’t show all of our LTS food stores, but it gives you some idea.

Monday, 21 August 2017

08:51 – Eclipse Day. We’re staying indoors this afternoon to hide from the eclipse. We wouldn’t want to go blind or get an eclipse burn or something. We’ll probably burn offerings to Apollo, Ra, and the FSM.

I’ve heard from several readers who live in rural areas that are in the path of totality. The common thread is that every motel room and rental cabin in the area is booked, gas stations are out of gas, supermarkets and convenience stores are out of everything, and so on. That’s what happens when the population of an area doubles or triples overnight. We haven’t seen any influx that I’m aware of, but we’re 150 miles or so outside the path of totality.

It was 64.5F (18C) when I took Colin out at 0635, partly cloudy. Colin appears to have recovered from his womiting problem. Barbara is off to the gym this morning. We have more science kit stuff to do when she returns.

We’re both pretty happy with the LTS food storage areas downstairs. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s a lot better than it was. At some point, we’ll install bracket shelving on one wall that’s now freed up in the food room itself, along with more shelving in the guest bedroom closet, but otherwise we’re good to go.

Our TV viewing is shifting increasingly to British Commonwealth series, and that’s saying something. Our TV viewing has always had that in the majority, but now it’s nearly exclusive. Right now, for example, we’ve just finished watching all four available seasons of the Australian series, A Place to Call Home, are in series seven of the British Dalziel & Pascoe, about three-quarters of the way through the British series, The Village, most of the way through series three of the British series, Grantchester (with the delightful Morven Christie, who looks like Helen Baxendale‘s daughter), about 40% of the way through the New Zealand series, Brokenwood Mysteries, and about halfway through the British series, Countryfile Diaries (with the delightful Keeley Donovan). In the on-deck circle, we have Harlots.

Monday, 14 August 2017

08:46 – It was 65.4F (18.5C) when I took Colin out at 0645, foggy and calm. We had another 0.33″ of rain overnight, which takes us to about 3.8″ (9.5 cm) over the last couple of days. This area averages about 4.5″ of rain per month, pretty evenly distributed by the week, which has been our experience since we’ve lived here. Shortage of water is not an issue.

We got enough regulated and unregulated chemical bags built yesterday to make another 30 biology kits, which we’ll work on today. After that, it’s back to building chemistry kits. Rinse and repeat.

Barbara walked up to the house next door yesterday. Kim and her husband, the new owners, were up there checking out progress. I’d thought that their niece, Grace, would move in right after they closed on the house. It turns out she’s living with them for the time being. The day of the closing, they’d mentioned making some improvements to the house like adding a deck, but we assumed they’d do that while Grace was living there. Turns out they’re gutting the place and doing a complete rebuild, to the extent of ripping out interior walls and creating a different floor plan. They told Barbara it should be finished in eight weeks, after which Grace will move in.


We’ve about finished up The Hollow Crown, a painfully politically-correct BBC adaptation of Shakespeare. I’ve learned many Amazing True Facts along the way. For example, I always assumed that the Duke of York who died at Agincourt was just a typical English white guy. Not so. He was black, as was Margaret of Anjou. Margaret, who was actually a 15 year old white girl at the time of her marriage, is portrayed by a 47 year old black actress, supposedly because she was the best actress for the role. Seriously? They couldn’t find a 15 year old white actress for the part? Who would have thought it? I’m surprised they didn’t make Henry V a black, Jewish woman.

And the same is true of Grantchester, a village mystery series set in 1954 rural Britain. There are diversities all over the place. Apparently, no one pointed out that in 1954 rural Britain, there weren’t any diversities wandering around the villages. It’s extremely jarring.


Speaking of cheap preps, as we were yesterday, you might want to pick up the following items next time you’re at Sam’s, Costco, or Walmart:

Magnesium sulfate, USP (Epsom Salts) – Last time I bought this stuff, I paid about $10 for two 7-pound retort bags, but you can get it in smaller containers for a couple bucks. It’s an excellent saline laxative. A tablespoon dissolved in a glass of water is normally effective within a few hours.

Isopropanol (isopropyl alcohol) – I buy the 91% v/v variety at Sam’s Club. It’s about $4 for a pair of one-quart bottles, which you can use as cheap but effective hand sanitizer. The 91% stuff is actually less effective at killing microorganisms than a 68% to 75% solution, so dilute the 91% stuff with tap water: add about a cup of water to a quart of the 91% stuff. At less than $8/gallon, this compares favorably in effectiveness to bulk Purell at about $36/gallon. You can widen its spectrum and make it an even more effective germ killer by adding a teaspoon of Lysol concentrate to each quart/liter of alcohol.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

09:35 – It was 65.3F (18.5C) when I took Colin out at 0700, partly cloudy and calm.

More work on kit stuff today. We’re down to one of the FK01A core forensic science kits in stock, so we’ll get another dozen built today. We’re also down to half a dozen of the BK01 biology kits in stock. We need to make up chemical bags for another two or three dozen of those and then get them built.

Joanne and her family picked up the Malamute at 1000 yesterday morning. Yesterday afternoon, Joanne texted Barbara to let her know that the dog had escaped by climbing up to a window that was slightly open and forcing her way out through the screen. At least she’s wearing a harness, so anyone who spots her will know she belongs to someone.

Barbara was of course beating herself up for not doing enough or not doing the right things, but I told her she’d done everything she could and done it right. I half expected the dog to show up here again, and we’ll certainly keep an eye out for her. But Barbara thinks she was lost or abandoned during the US21 100-mile yardsale a couple of weekends ago and is now headed down US21 to find her way home. As Barbara said, she has enough experience with dog rescue to know that all you can do is your best. You can’t save them all.

Robbie, who delivers our mail when Lori is off, told me the other day that those scanners they use to read the barcodes on postage labels are a two-edged sword. USPS also keeps close track of their mail carriers. Robbie said that if he stood there talking to me for 10 or 15 minutes, which he did, that when he got back to the post office the managers would want to know why he was at our place for 10 or 15 minutes.

He said that had happened to him earlier in the week. He was delivering an Ennis route, near his home. He needed to use the bathroom, so he drove to his house to do so. When he got back to the post office, his manager wanted to know why he’d been at his house for several minutes during his route. He told them bluntly exactly what he’d been doing there and asked if that was okay with them.


Sometime over the next few days, I want to get some bulk food repackaged. We have 50-pound sacks each of white flour, white sugar, and white rice sitting in the utility room, and enough clean, dry PET bottles to hold all of them. At 3,000 cal/day, that’s roughly three person-months worth of calories.

Barbara’s going to the supermarket today, and is also stopping at Blevins or Farmer’s Hardware to pick us up another of these platform ladders. We bought one last year, and use it in the garage for getting to stuff on high shelves. We need another in the downstairs lab/work area for the same purpose.

We have a set of four stoneware kitchen canisters that we got from LL Bean not long after we were married. Barbara said the other day that she’d like some new canisters, and sent me a link to this set on Amazon.

They just arrived, and she’s happy with them. We use our current four for flour, sugar, tea, and coffee. I’m going to keep the current set, converting the two large ones to holding white rice and oats, both of which we use quite a bit of. The smaller ones will continue to hold tea (for me) and coffee.

The new set is smaller than the old one. I’d call the largest canister in the new set “medium”. But Barbara’s going to use Papa and Mama Bear in the new set for sugar and flour, Tweenie Bear for tea bags (for her). I’m not sure what she’ll use Baby Bear for. It’s really small.