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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Rural enough?

How rural is rural enough? Where does one draw the line? Some folks wouldn't be satisfied until they had a planet to call their own. Back in the realm of the possible, how do we decided if we are far enough from people to be comfortable?

One of my friends had a very simple requirement. He had to be far enough out in the country to be able to pee of his front porch without anyone taking offense. Eventually he found such a place. One day someone bought the land next door and built a cabin. Lucky for my friend his neighbor wasn't the type to complain about anything someone did on their own land.

Two families I know life far enough off the road that they are actually on hiking trails. I went to visit one of those people in the hills of northern Vermont. They heard my diesel 4X4 coming and just assumed it was the trail crew coming up to fix recent rain damage. During good weather they could drive close to the house. In the winter my friends would hike in pulling supplies on a toboggan. They were off grid of course, and beyond the reach of cell phone towers. However, they did have satellite Internet running off solar electric panels.

As for myself, I used to say I was far enough out in the country if I could have my own shooting range. I loved being able to just walk outside and do a little plinking. One day land was developed downrange. A single log cabin was built at the end of a 1000 foot driveway coming down from the top of the hill. They are far enough back as to be out of sight, but just close enough to stop any stray bullets. I feel a bit crowded. What was once a rifle range is now an archery range.

To many the gold standard is to have a good sized piece of land located where they can't be encroached upon by new construction. That can be achieved by living on the last bit of private land surrounded by National Forest. Almost as good was the hunting camp my dad had. It was up 9 miles of dirt road on paper company land. They'd stopped giving out leases so that no new structures could ever be built.
For some a private island does the job.

Of course, rural living has a flip side. My paramedic buddy defines rural as being too far out in the sticks for effective emergency medical care. He's got a point, like it our not. If you have a heart attack in the middle of a good sized city there's a fair chance of getting effective medical treatment. Where I live. . . we just die.

There are many reasons to move out to the country, privacy, security, sustainability, or sometimes just a desire to be closer to nature. It's not for everyone and not without cost.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Inflatable survival boat

I see in some survival magazines they are promoting inflatable boats as bug out vehicles. The thinking is that even urban dwellers can store them in a closet somewhere and they don't take up much room. How good are they really?

Like anything else, it depends. If you really skimp and get a vinyl boat, you won't get much use out of it. If your main concern is crossing a river one time and never using it again -maybe. I say maybe because it might not even last the one time you need it. If you plan on escaping flood waters be aware that there is a lot of boat puncturing debris in the water.

I bought a Sea Eagle 420 kayak a few years ago and paid about $1100. For that money I got the boat, seats, paddles, patch kit, bag, and foot pump inflator. You also really need a special gauge to make sure it's at the right pressure, but that's a bit extra. Later I bought a nice 12 volt inflator pump which came with a built in gauge. That works really well, but it doesn't take all that long to inflate even using the foot pump.

The kayak is a bit over 14 feet long and very stable. It's capacity is over 800 pounds. That's a lot. It's not the fastest paddling boat I've ever owned, but paddles well enough to do the job. We used it as a dingy for our sailboat. Once we kept it inflated for over a month and the tubes never got soft. The material is rugged enough to stand up to oyster beds, sharp rocks, and barnacles.

I'd consider my kayak a decent bug out vehicle. It has a skeg it's easy to paddle a straight path. My lovely wife, the dog, our laundry and groceries plus my great big self all fit in the boat. One person can paddle the boat and that would leave an awful lot of capacity for equipment.

I brought it with me to Florida in our tiny little economy car so I've got it if I need it.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Homemaker skills

When the Federal poverty levels were established it was assumed there was a housewife at home who was a skilled homemaker. Today that can be looked at as a sexist assumption. However, the stay at home spouse provided many essential services. Today, things like cooking and child care have been monetized. Women work to pay for child care and to buy fast food or microwave ready meals.

I'm not saying we have to go back to the old days. There is no reason a man cannot cook, nurture children, or do any of the other jobs a household requires. Since women are putting in hours at work, it only makes sense that the domestic chores be shared.

There are men who say that housework diminishes their masculinity. It's a darn shame their sense of manhood is so fragile. Of course, I was firefighter who kicked in the doors of burning buildings. If I could do that I was certainly tough enough to change a diaper.

I'm glad I was able to spend a lot of time with my children while they were growing up. Childhood goes by so quickly that it's easy for parents to blink and miss it. My lovely wife worked a demanding full time job. I did most of the cooking because of our schedules and because I enjoyed it more.

Having hours to prepare meals cooked from scratch saved us a bundle of money -and we ate better too. It takes time to cook from inexpensive ingredients like dried beans and peas. How many families grind their own wheat berries to bake their own bread? By the way, whole wheat waffles from freshly ground wheat is amazing and really sticks with you.

Too many homes lack stability. They can't prepare a crock pot meal in the morning because they don't know what their situation will be by evening. Even back when my children were growing up, we were one of the few families that ate dinner together. We actually sat at the table all together with no TV or other distractions. I'm sure it's even harder today with everyone connected to electronic devices.

I'm glad we decided to make a little less money and spend more time with the children. The lower pay really didn't hurt us that much. By staying home more often we were able to do many things that other people pay money for. Those valuable things were all tax free, plus our taxable income was less. We might have eaten more beans and rice dishes than other families, but at least we ate it as a family.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Gonna need a bigger boat?

One of the ways I've been passing the time down to Florida is boat shopping on-line. Lots of interesting boats listed, many within my price range.

My main problem right now is that I no longer know exactly what I'm looking for in a boat. There are two considerations I didn't have before.

One is that my lovely wife and I are considering keeping a boat in Florida. With that in mind it might make sense to pay a marina to store a boat on dry land for us. That would save us a lot of towing and we wouldn't have to worry about keeping a big tow vehicle. I've got to weigh the cost and see if it makes sense.

A second consideration is my lovely wife is thinking about taking on crew. Say what? My lovely wife is concerned that her fibromyalgia could get worse and she wouldn't be up to handling the boat. This past summer she had some difficulty while alone on the boat. She knew what to do and accomplished about 95% of it, but lacked the strength to do the last 5%. The boat ended up grounded on a neighbor's beach, so there was no harm done. It bothered her a lot though.

As luck would have it one of the people we know back home is an experienced sailor. She's in a position where she could get away on an extended sailing adventure and really wants to go. She does have some personal issues to deal with, but disappearing on a sailboat would actually take care of most of them. Adding a third person simplifies some things and complicates the heck out of other things.

I've a list of things I want in a boat, and most of them don't change. Of course, any boat is a compromise. If we decide to keep a boat in storage somewhere we don't need one that can be towed on a trailer. That opens up a lot of options when looking for a boat for 3 people.

We did warn our friend that we won't be in a position to go off sailing for some time yet. I'm slowly building up the sailing kitty and looking for that ideal boat. One the bright side, I've come across three “good enough” boats in my price range. They weren't perfect, but were pretty close.

My hope is that I'll come across a boat that's so perfect the decision makes itself.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Modern ruins

Florida has always been a boom and bust state. I've been wintering down here long enough to see a couple of cycles. There are a lot of abandoned buildings and even whole developments are weedy and falling apart.

After 2008 it became clear that there was an awful lot of speculative building. Projects were stopped in various stages of construction. Perfectly fine buildings were never occupied. There were whole Florida counties that looked like they were hit with a zombie apocalypse.

Things have picked up again in parts of Florida. Here's the thing that bugs me. Do they rehabilitate the old developments? Nope. They clear land and build whole new ones, sometimes right next to the abandoned buildings.

I'm not sure why they do that, but I've got a couple of ideas. One thought is that the buildings were so shabbily constructed that it's cheaper to build new crappy buildings. Another idea is that the banks could be keeping those buildings on their books at full evaluation. Writing them all off would look bad on the bottom line.

There are areas in Florida where you can observe the remains of several boom and bust cycles. Some are just old foundation slaps. Others have some walls standing still. There are houses totally covered in vines and moss. To me, they are monuments to the more absurd elements of capitalism.

Other states are not immune to the instant ruins phenomena, but Florida is a special case. Down here it's a pro sport.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Safe locations

One of the common questions new preppers ask is: where is a safe place to live? Sounds like a simple enough question but it isn't.

Safe from what? Missouri is pretty safe from hurricanes, but it's in tornado alley. New Hampshire is safe from poisonous snakes, but you might freeze to death in the winter. You've got to focus on what really matters to you. Then you have to play the odds.

Right now I'm visiting in Florida, a place known for hurricanes. We've just been missed by one, but the Carolinas are getting slammed by historic rain and flooding. The Northeast isn't known for suffering from hurricanes, but New York got clobbered by hurricane Sandy. Just because a location doesn't normally suffer from certain disasters doesn't mean you are safe. Playing the odds doesn't always work.

Given a long enough time frame every point on the earth has at one time been unsafe. So what's a person to do?

The first thing you've got to do is to be flexible in your thinking. You plan for the most likely disasters, but don't limit your thinking. If some black swan event totally outside your expectation happens, don't panic. Many people panic and freeze up when disasters strike. Other times they just wait too long before they decide to move. When the water looks to breach the levies, it's past time to leave.

If you are a prepper you know how to provide the basics: water, food, shelter, and security. With those basics squared away your mental efforts can be directed to the unexpected threats.

I'm a big fan of sheltering in place. Usually it's the safest course of action, at least in the short term. However, sometimes the only thing one can do is to run. Being mobile can save your life. If the tanks are moving in, getting out their way is the best alternative. Should uncontrolled wildfires come your way, get the heck out of Dodge.

The safest place to live? That varies. Learn to sleep with one eye open.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunset at the beach

My three daughters flew down to visit my dad. One evening we went to catch the sunset at the beach. While it wasn't the prettiest sunset due to clouds, it was still a good one. The company was wonderful. All of us are water people and the ocean recharges our batteries.