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Saturday, April 22, 2017


The good news is that the van has been fixed and passed inspection. The garage is closed until Tuesday so I can't pick it up until then. No biggie. It sat for months so I won't need it in the next few days. It will be nice to have a second vehicle handy.

My physical repairs, on the other hand, aren't going as well. I was going to skip the follow up at the doctor's, except my leg really wasn't getting better. The antibiotics helped for a while, but then the leg actually started to look worse.

As it turned out the antibiotic didn't knock out all the different types of bacteria. Now I'm on a new antibiotic for the next two weeks. Really hope this works, as if it doesn't the doctor wants to send me to a wound clinic. Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. The only thing to do is to follow this through to the end. To take stress off the leg I've started a serious weight loss program. Before the injury I was able to carry my weight because I was active. Once injured, it has become much harder than it should to get well.

I will beat this challenge, like the others in the past. One thing about getting older, you understand how to deal with a long hard struggle.

The financial hit from the medical stuff is a bit discouraging. I've been making extra effort in an attempt to bring in some more cash. A simple medical problem sets that back. However, I've decided to budget a reasonable amount and make monthly payments until it's dealt with. Not going to break the bank over this. Life goes on.

My lovely wife and I drove down to MA to visit my oldest daughter and her family. I've missed them so felt it was worth the effort. Good to get out on the road, even for a relatively short trip to the next state. It's also good to see what spring looks like. There are leaves in the trees down here. It's still late winter home north of the White Mountains. We typically have spring weeks later and winter weeks earlier. Good thing summer in the North Country is so magical. I expect to be well to enjoy it too!


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Word from the garage

The nice lady at the garage called to let me know what the damage was going to be on the veggie van. As I suspected, not cheap.

The belt noise was caused by two different issues. One was the tensioner wheel. The second was caused by one of the alternators seizing up. Yes, the van has two of them. It started life as an ambulance before I turned it into a camper van powered by waste veggie oil. Medical equipment puts a lot of demand on electrical systems, so that's why two alternators.

The garage wanted to know if I wanted to go with just the stock alternator or to replace the second one too. They needed to know which belt to get. It took only a moment to decided to keep both alternators. The camper conversion has things like electric coolers and a microwave that draw a lot of power. Also, sometimes power tools are run off the inverter. Not a place to cheap out.

To pass inspection it needed some running lights changed and a directional light rewired. The most expensive item on the list was two new rear tires. I'd purchased those tires in South Carolina about two and a half years ago. They weren't too expensive, but they weren't that great either. Never liked the handling. They didn't perform badly enough to justify replacing them, but I kinda wanted to.

The whole thing came in just under a thousand dollars. Ouch! Well, I'd rather pay my local mechanic than some stranger on the road somewhere. I'm going to need that van to haul building materials and to tow boats.

We plan on doing a lot of camping in the van this year. We already have a week booked this summer on the coast of Maine. That van will probably be our home for a good part of the fall and winter. Might as well have it up to snuff. Fixing the van is a lot cheaper than heating the house in the winter.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Winter Damage

The snow and ice have melted down enough to access our winter damage.

My boats were not properly covered for the winter. Before I could get the covers on, I got a really nasty cold. While sick the storms moved in and buried the boats in snow and ice. That bothered me all winter and into the spring. How bad was the damage?

The homemade 12 foot scow suffered the worse damage. The cockpit filled with ice and it cracked one of the side panels. Fortunately, because I built the boat, I know how to fix it. The damaged material has to be cut out and new materials glassed in. Since the boat is going to need work anyway, it will be a good time to strengthen other parts. I'm also going to install another deck plate to make it easier to reach things in the cabin. There might even be enough materials kicking around the house so the fixes should be inexpensive.

My lovely wife cleared water and ice out of the Oday 19. So far I've found two problems. Something banged into the mast light, cracking the cover. Next week we are going to be at the coast of Maine so I'll be able to shop at a marine supply. The light was a cheap one and I've been wanting something of better quality anyway. This is a good excuse to upgrade.

I suspect the charge controller for the solar panel is trashed. It was mounted in a compartment that got flooded. The controller was installed in a splash proof case, but splash proof is not water proof. It wasn't designed to be submerged for a few months. I've a charge controller left over from another solar project that should work out just fine. There may be a way to mount it in a drier area. On the bright side it looks like the bilge is dry, so that's a good thing. All the flooding was restricted to the cockpit and an outside compartment.

Then there was the van. It was frozen in place most of the winter. Occasional I'd start it up and let it run for a while. During those test runs it's been making a lot of squeaking noise from the belt area. The Ford 7.3 turbo runs just about everything from one massive belt. Any of the components powered by the belt could be at fault. If I'm lucky it will just be a tensioner wheel. That would be the cheap fix.

The van also needs to pass inspection. I told my mechanic to fix the squeak and anything it needed to pass inspection. However, if he finds a problem that's going to cost thousands of dollars he should call me first. That's not the sort of deal I'd recommend you make with just anyone. We've done business for years and this guy is trustworthy.

My banged up leg is taking its own sweet time healing. Then again, I'm pushing it a bit, trying to get stuff done. Then my leg starts throbbing and rest is needed. As the weather improves I'm getting anxious to knock out some projects.

Of course, the lake is still frozen. There's only open water around some of the edges and by the inlet. There is still piles of snow here and there around house. Such is life in the North Country.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Back to Plumbing

I'm feeling well enough to get into jobs I don't like. Not sure if that's progress.

One of my toilets was leaking water from the tank to the bowl. It wasn't a lot, but it bothered me. I'm very sensitive to the working systems of my house. It used electricity to run the pump, was a waste of water, and caused unnecessary wear and tear. Another concern was the septic system. Too much water in the leach field can cause it to fail. With the spring snow melt and rain, there's already a lot of water to deal with.

I tried to do some quick repairs. Lesson one: universal flapper valves are not universal. The first one I bought didn't work. Lesson two: even the correct style might not form a perfect seal.

One of my Christmas gifts was a gift card from Lowes. It was enough to buy a complete replacement kit for all the workings in the tank. I was done messing around with sub-par parts. I thought the kit worked reasonably well. That is, until I turned the water one and the bathroom floor was covered in water. It turned out the bolt gaskets that came with the kit just did not work on my toilet. Fortunately, the old parts were still good, so I didn't have to run to the hardware store.

Toilets are pretty basic with a lot of parts in common between different makes and models. Unfortunately, there is just enough variation to cause problems. They are also built cheaply. When the original parts were removed it came as a surprise to see how poorly they were made. All the metal parts were rusty and the plastic parts brittle and weak.

Toilets are one of those things you want to just work. When you think about it, though, there's a lot of stuff that has to function properly for it to do its job. There's a bunch of moving parts in a wet environment. Water and sewage systems have to be functioning. In the case of people with water pumps, the electrical systems must function too.

It kinda made me long for the simple composting toilet I had on the sailboat. It didn't use water, power, or need a holding tank. In an emergency situation a simple Luggable Loo bucket style toilet is fine. I built my own for my first sailboat using a bucket, a toilet seat and some scrap lumber. There was very little odor, and believe me, in a small sailboat there is no place to hide from foul odors. What smell there was mild and earthy.

Having some kind of bucket toilet is a good idea for emergencies. It's easy to build a nice one. Plans are all over the Internet. If you don't want to do that you can often buy simple ones from big box stores for less than $20. Peat moss or coconut husk works well to cover up the deposits. If you don't have that, sawdust or even kitty litter will do.

Modern flush toilets are nice, but a major failure point in an emergency. Sanitation is important and a backup plan is a good idea. In the old days, everyone had an outhouse -and they were disgusting. Wastes are broken down by anaerobic bacteria, and the gases generated are nasty. Composting toilets use aerobic bacteria and the process is much more nose pleasant.

Toilet issues are something most of us don't like to think too much about. However, like they say in the kids books: everybody poops.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

To the Hospital

Last Saturday, after a sleepless night due to leg pain, I asked my lovely wife to take me to the hospital. While I thought my leg was slowly healing, it was taking longer than it should. Going the the hospital is a big deal for me. First of all, I hate to go there. Sometimes once you get into the system they never want to let you go. There's some bad history between the medical profession and myself.

The second major consideration is the fact that I don't have medical insurance. When I told the emergency room receptionist she didn't even blink an eye. She just made a note of it and handed me a large booklet explaining their assistance programs.

Fortunately, the ER doctor on duty was one of the few I respected. Long story short, after an exam, some x-rays and new bandage, they let me go. The doctor wrote a script for antibiotics. It cost $19 for the antibiotics and a new bottle of acetaminophen. The antibiotics are really speeding up the healing process. Seems like it's worth it.

Now all I have to do is wait for the bills to come in. Of course, when I had medical insurance there was a $6000 deductible, so that wouldn't have helped me. Add to that the couple of thousand of dollars I didn't spend on insurance and I'll be ahead of the game. Anybody in other civilized countries would have gone to the hospital a month ago. Only in the United States do we put off medial treatments.

My insurance would not cover me outside of my state. That means for up to half the year my insurance would do me no good at all. We really have the worse of all systems -if you aren't rich, that is.

My parents had what was considered good medical insurance. In spite of that, when my mother came down with cancer, uncovered expenses bankrupted them. Years later when my dad passed away from cancer, he died broke. In fact, it cost me some money to give him a proper burial.

Personally, I'm not afraid of bankruptcy. Yeah, my credit rating would be shredded, but credit is only necessary if you need to buy stuff. I'm pretty good at living a minimalist life.

I'm glad I'm getting better as we've are finally getting some decent weather. It's actually hit 70 degrees the last couple of days. The snow pack is finally melting. In a few days I should be able to get my van out of the ice.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Coffee Shop Tour

I'm looking forward to getting the old motorcycle back on the road. The 1974 -900 cc Kawasaki will not look pretty, but as long as it runs that fine with me. I'd like to do a coffee shop tour of New England with a friend or two. In my younger days I might have done a brew pub tour, but I'm supposed to be wiser now.

Maybe I'll fit in just one brew put between coffee shops.

Over the winter I've been slowly gathering parts that I need to fix the bike. Also discovered the source of an electrical problem the bike had. Years ago I made a quick field repair while on a trip, then promptly forgot about it. The hasty repair was not meant to last for the years I drove with it that way.

Once the snow is gone I'm going to get my boats in order. I had hoped to get some of that sorted out in the fall, but early snows put a stop to those plans. As I type there's a new LED bow light sitting next to the computer. It's begging to be installed, but the boat is buried in snow and ice.

The deck on the house needs replacement. A new dock needs to be built. Warm weather better get here soon.

I'm also waiting for a big stack of paperwork to hit my desk. When it does I'm going to have to disappear into that for a while. Not fun, but sometimes you have to take care of business. Hope to get that stuff sorted out so I can get back to play time.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

More Ice and Snow

One of the best decisions I made going into the winter was to buy really good snow tires. Last night I came home driving over a mix of snow and ice. It was slow going, but no problem.

It's funny to get a mailbox full of seed catalogs when the yard is buried in snow. My van is sitting in 8 inches of ice with three feet of snow piled in front of it. Of course, a good warm week, and a bit of rain could change everything. Ice usually leaves the lake by the third week of April. It might do so again this year, only because February was so warm, preventing much ice build up.

I'm refraining from talking about politics. Within a year things will have sorted themselves out one way or the other, no matter what I say. All I can recommend is to prepare for interesting times.

It's been an odd winter for me. It's been many years since I spent the whole winter in the North Country. The last time was to help a family member who was going through an rough patch. Between illness and injury I didn't play outside much. Many days I didn't go much further than the wood pile.

On the plus side, we spent a lot of quality time with friends and family. Really strengthened bonds with the tribe. Also got some work done. In a few days I should have some idea what kind of return I'm going to get for my efforts. Hope it's been worth it. However, it looks like the gig I'm going to do in early May will definitely be worth my effort. There will be some “extra” money coming in. As if money is ever extra.

Within the next day or two I'll be plugging away at another project. There are some time pressures on that one, so posting might disappear for a bit. However, I'm hoping to be able to squeeze in more of it. At least during my blogging hiatus I actually really did focus on taking care of business. It wasn't nachos and Netflix time.

Stay well.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Between Projects

I'm taking a short break between projects, so I thought I'd return to this blog and let everyone know it's still alive.

The work I've been doing is pretty much “on spec.” For a guy who was raised in a blue collar world, that's a weird way to work. I grew up with an understanding: you agreed on so much an hour, you put your hours in and got paid. This new kind of work just feels weird to me. On one hand, it feels like I'm working for nothing. By the time money does come in, (if it does) there's enough time between the work and paycheck that they don't feel connected. Maybe if a few more paychecks come in, it won't feel so weird.

Anyway, we started the month with another foot of snow. Spring is taking its own sweet time here in the North Country. On the bright side, we won't be going into summer with drought conditions. Once this snow melts, it's going to be pretty wet.

My leg injury is still not fully healed, but that's not uncommon for this type of injury. I'm at the point where I feel good enough to overdue it. Then the next day I'm lying around recovering. This could take a few weeks yet. One thing this injury has done is kept me here in New England. A long drive to the sunny south is not in the cards right now.

I've been reflecting on some of the dichotomies in my life. At home I tend to live in comfortable clutter. There are book and magazines everywhere. Projects in various stages of completion are scattered throughout the house, and the whole property for that matter. Dishes might pile up in the sink There is a lot of stuff and things lying around.

On the other hand, I'm very comfortable with a minimalist lifestyle. I can go camping or boating with a bare minimum of gear. It doesn't bother me to live out of a small backpack for long periods of time.

Some people feel smothered by clutter. It hardly bothers me at all. Others freak out by a minimalist lifestyle but others find it liberating. For me, it's not about the clutter or the minimal. It's how they suit what I want to do. Having a lot of stuff around is handy when creating. I can put my hands on reference books, tools, materials -whatever I need. When traveling, it only makes sense to travel light. It's about the experiences and having more than what's necessary gets in the way of that.

I've been looking for a replacement for the small computer I lost in the shipwreck. It took some searching, but something turned up that fit my needs. Right now I'm using a tablet that runs Windows 10 and has a detachable keyboard. With the addition of an extra memory micro SD card, and a wireless mouse, it was good to go. The price was right, so I don't mind hauling it around with me everywhere I go. Should something happen, replacement costs won't break me.

I'm backing more of my stuff “in the cloud.” Actually, I'm using three different cloud storage companies as I'd hate to lose everything if a business collapses.

To sum up, my lovely wife and I are hanging in there. Back to the projects on Monday.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Still Alive

I've missed blogging, but there's been many other demands on my time and energy. Such is life. Right now I happen to have a few moments to myself so I thought I'd write a new post. Since my last post I've been out straight with another creative project. That project has the potential to make a few dollars. The last year and a half has been rather expensive for me; it's time to take care of business.

The weather has been bitterly cold. Now a major snowstorm is on its way. Interesting times. One week I'm running around in sandals and no jacket, the next week we have a wind chill of -29. It was all I could to do keep plumbing from freezing.

I have to be honest and say I'm not too impressed with Trump. His administration looks like the “not ready for prime time players.” It's not all bad. There are a few decent cabinet choices and I was happy to see the Pacific Trade deal get shut down. That deal was negotiated in secret and that made me very wary of it. The best I can figure is that it wasn't so much about trade as it was about political alliances.

Too many people relaxed their prepping when Trump was elected, as if having a Republican at the top was going to change all the basic facts of modern life. Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes don't care who's president.

I've made it clear in the past that I wasn't a fan of either Hillery or Trump. There's a reason I'm a registered Independent voter. Trump did upset the apple cart, so there is opportunity in chaos. In the short term, however, I know a lot of people who've personally suffered due to his policies. One example, here in NH we are a big tourist state. International travel is way down. I've friends and family who've lost money and work because of it. One thing about change, you can never do just one thing. Everything has consequences. Enough of politics though. Everyone is still emotional and it's going to to take time for peoples' logic to kick in.

Currently I'm convalescing after bruising the heck out of my leg. Dropped a bundle of firewood on it. Can't really afford to see the doctor, so I'm doing what I can to avoid that. Obama care was too expensive and the deductible too large so I let it go. As luck would have it, Trump care doesn't look any better for someone my age and with my income. One can only hope that the promise of cheaper/better care is fulfilled, but I'm not holding my breath. On the other hand, it certainly looks good for the top 10% or so.

In happier news, the motorcycle project is moving along. Just had three deliveries of parts come in. I've cleaned up some corrosion, (still more to do) and sorted out electrical problems. It might cost me more for riding safety gear than bike parts. Looking forward to getting the old bike out on the road. I'm an adrenaline junkie at heart.

This has been the first winter in many years that my lovely wife and I have stayed in the frozen north. I'd forgotten how pasty white I was under my tan. For years I've been getting enough sun to have some color. This winter I resorted to taking vitamin D3 pills. Next winter we plan on traveling to warmer climes.

We are trying to figure out what to do. There's a chance we'll buy another sailboat to replace the one we lost one dark and stormy night. If that doesn't come together, we still have the Oday 19. We could do a mix of van camping and sailing. There's the possibility that we'll concentrate on camping and just bring the kayak. It's nice to have options.
So I'm still around, just busier than a one armed paper hanger.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Taking a break

I'm taking a break from blogging for a bit. There aren't any problems or anything like that. It's just that other things require my creative energies right now.

Take care everyone. See you all later.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Lessons for the Bug out Bag

Everyone who's a prepper has some idea what the proper contents of a Bug out Bag are. The idea is to have the essentials for an emergency. The contents of a BOB vary considerably, partly due to the fact that individual needs vary.

Are you looking for a bag that will get you a mile down the road? Are you in a rural area? City? Do you plan on a hike that might be hundreds of miles long? It certainly makes a difference. One BOB might work with a good pair of walking shoes, a water bottle, flashlight and a Swiss Army knife. That's plenty for bugging out of your office job in the city to your place a few miles out. What about the long distance guy?

Fortunately, there are people who've figured out what's essential to bring on a long trek: The Appalachian Trail hikers. People who think nothing of hiking 2000 miles have their gear sorted out. A lot of those people have Youtube channels where they share their experiences, demonstrate their gear, and show how and what they pack.

Most of the serious hikers now go with super light weight gear. One huge advantage is that they can travel a lot faster than someone with a massive pack. Going light also makes sense if you are not Special Forces fit. A super light pack is a lot less wear and tear on your body.

Their gear may be minimal and light, but it provides food, shelter, and water -the basics of life. They can also sustain hauling that gear around day in, day out. Some of it can be expensive, but remember, the gear is not only light weight, but built to last thousands of miles. There are some seriously low budget hikers out there and they are worth seeking out. A $400 lightweight tent is great, but a cheap tarp will keep the rain off you too.

There is some discussion about personal safety among the AT hikers. Most do not carry a firearm, but a few do. It's problematic on the AT as it goes through so many states with different laws. Out west in big bear country, carrying a firearm while hiking is more common.

Now a lot of these guys (and gals) look like dirty hippies. Months on the trail will do that do you. That doesn't mean they don't know their stuff. They have some good information, often learned the hard way, to share.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Winter dreaming

My fancy sailing magazine came in the mail the other day. It's a good thing that the subscription was heavily discounted. Even so, I don't think it's going to be renewed. Too many of the articles are about throwing money at sailing problems. Also, things like boat reviews of half million dollar boats aren't very useful to me either.

I do watch a lot of Youtube videos about sailing, so I'm always on the lookout for new vlogs. There are certain things I look for. If someone is doing something like rebuilding a 27 foot boat, that's pretty useful. Someone else has a new DIY design for a composting head, that's cool. People going on major journeys on small boats, bring it on.

Then I came across a new vlog about a couple looking into buying a boat. Those can be interesting. However, I got suspicious when they were looking at boats large enough for a full sized washer and dryer. Then they got around to how they were going to finance their trip. Sell the business, that sounds Okay. Sell the RV, the helicopter, the Harley . . . a whole bunch of really big ticket items. All righty then, not the sort of video experience that's going to have a lot of take away information for me.

That's not to say I can't learn from people on expensive boats. If they are going to places that interest me, I'll watch to see what things are like there. Often there is very useful information about where to get boat parts or places to resupply. Better yet are trips to nice remote beaches and places of natural wonder. It doesn't matter if you get there on a 3 million dollar boat or a 3 thousand dollar boat, the natural beauty is the same.

Judging from my current budget, I'll be doing in the short term is dreaming. This definitely is a rebuilding year for us. Maybe I'd better focus on people doing everything with nothing. Heck, maybe I should become that person and vlog about it myself.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Welp, this is the day

Welp, this is the day Trump is sworn in as President.

Now a lot of his political opponents are hoping for him to fail. While I'm not a fan of the man, I do want his presidency to succeed. I want America to succeed. I'll support every program of his that is good for this country.

That being said, I'm going to fight against anything that he proposes that I think is bad for the country. In that way he's no more special than every other President.

I am not a Republican nor am I a Democrat. Frankly, both parties have some pretty dumb ideas as core beliefs. As an Independent voter I pride myself in voting for the best person for the job, regardless of affiliation. We are a pretty big percentage of NH voters. Part of the reason is that during primary elections we can declare for either party, vote, then undeclare and resume Independent status. Works for me.

I'm hoping things go without a hitch. The last thing we need is violence during the “peaceful” transition of power.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

August road trip to look at darkness?

This August there's going to be a total eclipse of the sun that will be visible in the United States.

As you can see from the map, it looks like the best viewing will be around the area of western Kentucky. You will also notice that the track of the eclipse goes nowhere near my home in New Hampshire.

However, a very good friend of mine, lives in western Kentucky. He's invited a bunch of friends and family to join him for the viewing. It's very tempting to take him up on the offer. He has a first come first served offer. The first ones there can snag the bed in the guest room. After that it's tents in the yard. Actually, my lovely wife and I might just prefer the tent. That's how we roll.

At least we've time to think about it. I'm going to keep my schedule open just in case we decide to go on a road trip.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Let the health care games begin!

It's no secret that I've never been a fan of Trump. However, I wasn't a fan of having another Clinton in the White House either. Still with me?

There was some thought that the Republican leadership were going to handle the day to day business of government. Trump was expected to be some sort of figurehead who rubber stamped what the leadership wanted.

It doesn't look like that's going to happen. The big issue that caught my attention was health care. Republicans have been trying to shut down the ACA for years. It appeared that their plan was to shut it down and figure out some sort of replacement later . . . maybe.

Then Trump comes around and promises health care for everybody, no preconditions, kids can stay on their parent's plan, and it's going to be cheaper for everyone. Plus, the unpopular mandate will be done away with. Turns out that Trump has a plan of his own. The Republican leadership is quietly have fits.

The big question is how is that going to be paid for? Trump is talking about cracking down on the drug companies. Okay, that should help, but it won't pay for the whole plan. I am very interested to see how this will turn out. There are ways to make it work. The most practical is a single payer plan, like the rest of the civilized world has. That is ideologically forbidden, so I'm curious to see what happens next.

I used to think that competition could lower prices, but we haven't seen that happen. Drug companies have raised essential medications to ridiculously high prices, because they can. Many drugs are controlled by just one company so competition isn't going to help; there isn't any.

The medical field is not like other industries. I've got one hospital within reasonable driving distance from my house. It's not like hospitals compete on a dollar to dollar basis with each other. The pricing is totally opaque so we don't' know what a procedure really costs. We can't shop around. Besides, this not like like buying a new smart phone. Our lives are on the line here so the pressures are different.

As for myself, I'm looking at heath insurance from the outside. Before Obama care my insurance, while fairly decent, was completely unaffordable. After the ACA appeared I could afford a minimal plan with a crazy high deductible. After two years even that got too expensive. Now my plan consists of going to the emergency room and stiffing them for the bill. That's not a great plan, but it's the one forced onto me.

To sum up, as much as I'm not a fan of Trump, I'm glad he made the promises that he did. Let's see if they can pull a rabbit out a hat.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fresh food

Stored food is great. In an emergency situation it can make the difference between being hungry and having the calories that you need.

That's all well and good, but I sure do miss the fresh stuff after a while. My lovely wife and I recently went on a road trip just to go to a store with a decent produce section. The problem with being at the end of the supply line is that “fresh” food, isn't. Too often the produce doesn't last more than a day or two.

There's something about really fresh food that our bodies crave.

When I used to do a lot of backpacking it wasn't a problem. Sure, my backpack didn't have anything fresh at all. Everything was chosen because it could go the distance without refrigeration. However, while hiking I always munched on enough wild foods to keep me happy.

Normally I'm not the sort of guy to get excited by a salad. However, there was a time when we were sailing that we went an extra long time between resupply runs. We got stuck waiting out bad weather at very remote place. By the time we got back to civilization I was dreaming about eating salad. I was able to pick up a huge bag of salad greens at a store. That night I ate half of it and had the other half for breakfast. My diet of emergency stored foods must have been missing something my body craved.

Most of us are pretty spoiled because we are used to getting fresh food from all over the world. I do remember the tales of the old days when people grew and stored most of what they ate. Forget salads and fresh citrus. They lived on a lot of stored potatoes, squash, turnips, carrots plus picked and canned veggies. It got them through the winter. Getting an orange in your Christmas stocking was a big deal.

While I know how to survive using the old skills, I'd sure miss the fresh stuff.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Dunbar's Number

Anthropologist Robin Dunbar postulated that humans, on average, are capable of maintaining only about 150 relationships. That's about the upper limit of people your brain can really connect with. These are the people who if you happen to meet by chance, you would not feel uncomfortable having a drink with them. There's a lot of research that seems to back that up.

You can look at everything from hunter gatherer societies, to Medieval villages, to Facebook friends. In the real world, the number pretty much holds true.

So what can we do with this information. Well first off, if you think your 1000 Facebook friends are real, they aren't. You can't possibly invest enough social energy into all those relationships. It's pretty humbling, at least for me, to realize there is an upper limit on the number of people we can really connect to. Sure, that 150 is an estimate. No doubt there are those who can invest more into social relationships and connect with more. On the other side of the equation are those who hardly connect with anyone.

It did get me thinking. Soldiers don't connect and fight for the whole army. They are fighting for that tight group of men around them. How about other large organizations? Think about it, do you join a large organization because of the thousands of people in it, or do you join because your three best friends are in it? That's how I ended up in the Boy Scouts.

It used to be that just about all those 150 or so people were in fairly close physical contact with you. Maybe a few relationships were maintained through letter writing. Now we have social media so we can put social energy into relationships with people far away.

That's great, especially if you expect to be physically close to those people again. The problem arises when your Dunbar Number is almost totally filled up with people you only connect with electronically. What you need are people who will be there for you in a pinch. That Facebook friend is nice, but if you need an emergency baby sitter it helps to really know the folks in your neighborhood.

You can do a lot with a 150 people. If you have connections with a lot of people locally, you are in better shape in a SHTF situation. That's a big enough group to have a variety of skills and goods to exchange. A gift economy will work just fine for that number. If someone is in your tribe, you can contribute to their welfare knowing the tribe as a whole benefits. That's payment enough. Social connection is worth real things.

Strangers are the ones you have to have a more formalized exchange with. At the bare minimum you can do a one to one barter deal. The invention of money allowed people with no social connections to exchange things of value. Interesting invention that allowed complex economies larger than our Dunbar number. However, if the currency loses its value, you'd better have some real social connections.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Readings from the book

On a pretty regular basis my lovely wife and do readings from the book of Chapman. That's the Chapman Piloting Seamanship and Small Boat Handling book. It's a honking big book filled with useful information for boaters.

Ironically, our newer edition went down with the ship. Maybe we should have done more reading about local knowledge and the unreliability of charts. However, we did benefit from the information about abandoning ship, so there's that.

We had an older edition safe in my home library, so that's what we are using now. It's one way to keep our skills sharp through the long winter.

Another favorite of mine is: The Complete Rigger's Apprentice, by Brian Toss. If you've got a sailboat and want to understand everything about keeping the mast from falling off the boat, it's a handy book to have. It's also a pretty decent knot book too.

That too was lost to the sea. However, we were given a West Marine gift card and purchased a replacement.

Those books aren't cheap, but well worth the money. Any knowledge and skills you can pick up from good books saves a ton of money down the road. Every time you have to pay to get something done on a boat it's usually a minimum of at least one Boat Buck. (One Boat Buck equals $1,000) They add up fast.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Out go the lights

I was cooking a nice dinner for my lovely wife and I. There was a nice steak from a local farm cooking on the woodstove. The rice and veggies were just about done. Then the lights went out. It had been windy all day so I wasn't too surprised.

Normally my lights are powered from my solar electric system, but due to all the cloudy days we've had the lights were on the grid. It would have been a simple thing to switch them back to the batteries. There was enough power saved up to easily get us through the night. However, we decided to light a couple of candles instead and have a romantic candlelight dinner.

While we were having dinner I noticed a fire truck drove past the house. They normally don't come around the lake, so I assumed there must be a problem out on the main road. Sure enough, after dinner I looked and could see flashing red lights in the distance. It was hard to judge looking through the trees, but they appeared to be down by the main road.

A lot of people would go down the road to see what the problem was. I didn't need to know. The last thing the firefighters needed was some guy hanging around getting in the way. Besides, when I was a firefighter back in the day I had my fill of dealing with dangerous downed power lines. No sense putting myself in harm's way when I'm not getting paid to do so.

While my lovely wife and I were having after dinner drinks the utility truck drove by. About a half hour later the grid was back up. No problem.

It did make me think. What if this was a real Lights Out situation. What if the grid didn't come back for a long long time. Well, we had the woodstove going and have enough fuel for some time. The pantry is well stocked. We have good water, and we'd be in pretty good shape for some time.

Now imagine the grid goes down where you are and stays down. How prepared are you right now? Not how prepared you could be later, but right now. Hope you feel good about your situation. If not, maybe this would be a good time to do something about it.


Friday, January 13, 2017


It is said that everyone has their double. My dad used to look a lot like a famous professional golf player. Once in a while people would stop him on the street and ask his advice for problems with their golf game. Dad always used to make suggestions, which they took seriously. How my dad kept a straight face I have no idea; dad never played a game of golf in his life.

A less amusing mistaken identity issue my dad had was with his name. Apparently it was quite similar to that of a South American drug lord. It gave him no end of trouble at airports. That is, until the drug lord died in a hail of bullets.

Apparently I've got few doubles of my own. I think I'm pretty unique looking but apparently not totally unique. There was a guy who lived in the same town I did, but I never met him. He looked enough like me that strangers would talk to me like I was this guy. Unfortunately my double like to hang around drinking in pubs all the time. People would tell me my lovely wife that they saw me at the pub. The first time that happened I'd spent the evening at my parents' house, so my spouse did not know what to think. When it happened on nights that I was with her, she then understood what was going on. It was a relief when the guy moved out of town.

A friend of mine who lives downstate says he knows a guy who looks enough like me to be my twin. My buddy said if I ever need an alibi he'll take the guy out for a few drinks in a crowded bar. Then he'll claim I was with him the whole time. That's a good friend for you.

Then there was one time when a guy who looks just like me shot three coworkers after he was fired from his job. That was in the national papers. People looked at that and said, “what's Sixbears doing in the paper?” Only after reading the article did they realize it wasn't me. Nice to know I look like a crazed killer.

Maybe I've got to lose a bunch of weight, shave my head, and dye my beard.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Temperatures swings

In less than a day the temperature went from -11 F to 42 F. That's a big swing in a short while. The warm weather brought some rain and very high winds. In the morning my yard was covered in small branches that had been stripped off the softwoods. Surprisingly, the grid never went down the whole time.

In spite of icy roads, we've been running into town to take care of errands and to meet up with people. If we are going to be stuck on land for the winter, we'd best take advantage of having friends and family nearby.

I've no regrets with spending the money to get really good winter tires on my wife's car. Between the tires and driving slowly and carefully, we've had no problems. That includes sudden stops for deer jumping in the road.

The warmer weather softened the snow and ice around the house. The softer snow allowed me to pull extension cords from our Christmas lights out of the snow. I thought they'd be there until spring. Since we had a Norman Rockwell picture perfect snowy Christmas, it can melt for all I care. My friends who ski have other ideas, but if the snow melts I won't cry about it. Odds are we'll get buried again in feet of snow soon enough.

If the weather holds I'm going to dig the ambulance/motorhome out of the snow. We really haven't needed it. Right now the battery is too low to turn the big diesel over. That's what happened when it's not started for a couple months.

That big extension cord that was buried in the ice can now be used to put a charger on the van. The tricky part is that the cord has to cross the road. Traffic is light, so if the cord lays flat it's not problem. I need a day when the town plow isn't going to come by as that would not be good. Maybe tomorrow,if the weather is good.

My lovely wife and I just can't seem to completely get over our colds. We are about 90% better, but that last 10% lingers and lingers. It's just bad enough to be annoying. We are taking it easy with hopes of being all better soon.

Not really all that much going on. Just taking care of business.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Saber Training

An old friend of mine has volunteered to give me some saber fighting lessons. He's a fencing instructor with years of experience with a variety of weapons and styles. Of course, I'm taking him up on the offer. It's been years since I've trained with pointy things and I'm overdue.

I had a couple years of private lessons in eastern weapons fighting: staff, boken, tonfas, knives, and even fighting fan. However, it's been a while since I trained with a good teacher. My old sensei no longer has a dojo and I certainly miss it.

So why is someone with a good selection of firearms happy to train in edged weapons? In short: why take a knife to a gun fight? It all depends on the threat. There are parts of the world where guns are tightly regulated, but it's normal for people to walk around with machetes. Often the greatest threat is not from bandits, but from those who wear a badge.

Take a place like the Bahamas. They are actually pretty good about Americans bringing guns into the country. You have to claim them and give an ammo count. Those who do normally don't have any issues. However, heaven help you if you get caught with an undeclared firearm. Recently in Bimini some Americans on a fishing boat were caught with a gun. They spent a few days in jail and had to pay a $10,000 fine.

Then there's the little thing about the ammo count. They want to know if you've been shooting anybody in their country. Now I'm told some people hide extra, uncounted, ammo. Not a bad idea . . . if you don't get caught. Like everything else you have to weigh the pros and cons.

In many places self defense is not a legal use of a firearm.

I have heard the tale of a guy on sailboat who found 3 uninvited guys on deck. He burst out his cabin yelling and waving a machete. Even though they had knives, they all decided to dive overboard. One thing about knife fights, odds are you are going to get cut. The bandits didn't think it was worth the risk.

I've ordered a machete make of stainless steel, perfect for a marine environment. Yeah, I might still take a gun, but it's good to have options.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Where are the palm trees?

Woke up to another sub-zero morning. I must admit, I miss the palm trees some days. In spite of that, we are snug and warm in our dome in the woods. This is definitely a good time to catch up on a lot of things that needed attending to.

There's been a lot of cold weather reaching pretty far down south. I was talking to my mother-in-law in TX and they've had temperatures below freezing. I'm not a big fan of driving to TX if I still can't wear shorts and flip flops.

This is a definitely a rebuilding season. This is the place for it. We are taking care of little things like the dentist, the vet for the dog, and other odds and ends. Much of my business takes place on-line so I'm really enjoying the cheap high speed Internet and endless cups of good coffee.

The water pipes that feed my washing machine needed to be thawed with a hair dryer. It's an on-going problem that crops up when the temperatures stay below zero for too long. The pipes have even been rerouted twice, but they still occasionally freeze. At least they don't freeze hard enough to burst, so that's something.

I'm not sure how I'm going to do it, but by next winter we will have another boat to live on. Also expect to make our way to the Bahamas and points south. There are a lot of interesting islands out there . . and palm trees, or so I'm told.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Internet service provider fun!

I got a notification that my local Internet provider, a small company called Argent, was doing mandatory upgrades. Thought I'd get it out of the way right off. They said they could have a crew at my place Saturday at 1 p.m..

By 1:15 the company had a van and a bucket truck sitting outside. Of course, the dog went nuts because that's what she does when strange vehicles stop nearby. Good thing the service guy was comfortable around dogs. My poor mutt went crazy every time the guy had come into the house. I think the dog was bored and tried to make some excitement out of nothing.

They did good work. The system was up and running. Speeds are now about 10 times faster. I thanked them and they were on their way.

No problems with the laptop computers. My Roko device connected and played Netflix just fine. Then I tried to connect to the Internet with my cell phone. Nope. No way. The settings say it's connected but it doesn't work.

Just to confuse the matter there was a notification in the morning that the Android operating system needed to be updated. I hit the update button and forgot about it. Now I don't know if it's an update problem or WIFI problem. Nothing worse than trying solve problems for more than one variable.

Oh well. I guess the thing will be to go into town and see if the phone connects to other networks. If it doesn't the problem is in the phone. If it does then I have to call Argent and see what they can suggest.

Don't you just love modern technology?


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Discounting the north

There are a lot of bug out maps for potential safe places bouncing around out there. They have some things in common: avoid big cities, have access to clean water, be able to grow food, and so on.

A big one is having a mild climate. That's nice, but a lot of people think that way. In a SHTF situation everyone will bug out to such places. Maybe those places won't be so good once thousands and thousands of people try and move in.

I'm here in the mountains of northern NH. It's cold and the growing season is short. However, the population is low and there is a lot of open Federal land and big private timber lots. Private land owners get huge tax discounts by allowing public access to their lands.

Snow and cold have advantages. All it takes is one unplowed snowstorm to make travel impossible. While it's difficult to get out of your house, it's just as hard for the golden horde to get to invade. Besides, most people will be heading south so they don't freeze to death.

Yes, the cold is an issue, but a good woodstove and a big pile of firewood make all the difference in the world. I've always said a woodshed full of wood is better than money in the bank. In an emergency situation it's possible close down much of the house and concentrate living near the woodstove. That reduces the amount of firewood that you need to survive. Good warm clothes makes all the difference in the world too.

Having good food storage is essential. You really don't want to try and forage for food in the dead of winter. It can be done, but everything is harder in the cold and snow. Times are lean. That will discourage those who think they can bug out and live off the land. They will head somewhere else.

There are some tricks to living in snow country. One big mistake people make is that they think it's easy to melt snow for water. I've lived for days on snowmelt, and it's a lot of work. The woodstove was kept blazing hot and big pots of snow sat on the stove. It's discouraging to melt down a big 5 gallon pot of snow and end up with an inch of dirty water on the bottom. Snowmelt also tastes pretty bad. I've dug through feet of snow and ice to get to liquid water in a stream. It's less work than gathering snow all the time.

On the bright side, refrigeration is not a problem. Neither are insects for that matter. It's not all negatives.

In a pinch I could keep my house warm just with the firewood within walking distance to my house. I've done it, and all with hand tools too. Get some snowshoes and tobaggons and it's possible to haul a lot of things around.

If you are prepared, the cold and snow are advantages. It keeps the riff raft away.


Friday, January 6, 2017

Restocking the pantry

My lovely wife and I ended up with a couple of Amazon gift cards. Did we buy ourselves some new toys? Nope. We decided to use them to help restock the pantry. It's kinda weird to by food on-line, but with the gift cards and prime shipping, why not?

I'm trying some Bob's Red Mill TSP. (Textured Soy Protein) It's supposed to be healthier than TVP. (Textured Vegetable Protein) I've used TVP in the past to bulk out pasta and stir fry dishes. TSP is supposed to be easier to digest. We shall see.

I picked up some dehydrated vegetables. I'm making a chicken soup and will test them out to see how they do. If I like them I'll probably order more. My food storage tends towards proteins, carbs and some fats. Probably should add more veggies.

Also added to my old standby, small navy beans. I've got a really good recipe for New England baked beans. My vegetarian version is really cheap to make, but tasty and hearty -just the thing to stick with you on cold winter days.

We plan a trip to a discount store to round out a few odds and ends.

Shipping expense is a big downside for bulk food buying. I used to have the nice lady at a local health food store special order stuff for me. That way I could buy stuff like wheat berries, oats, and dry beans by the 50 pound bag. It's not what she normally carried in her small store, but I'd always pick it up right after the order came in so she didn't have to deal with storing it. Huge savings on shipping. Unfortunately, she closed her business to take a regular job.

A local coffee shop also used to let me order stuff from their suppliers. They carried soup and sandwiches so I got a lot of dried soup ingredients through them. They sold the business so I lost that connection too.

My food storage used to be almost all cheap items with good nutrition, long term storage, but took time to prepare. Lately I've been adding stuff that is much quicker to cook. In an emergency being able to put together a high energy healthy meal quickly has its advantages.

Another consideration is that I'm thinking about food for boat trips. Food that can be prepared with little cooking really stretches out the cooking fuel supply. Having good easy to make meals available will make it less tempting to dingy to shore to grab a burger.

I'm also drawing on my old backpacking days. Basic ingredients were rounded out with a good variety of spices. The same basic stuff could become Italian, Mexican or Oriental meals. It was easy and kept things from being boring. Just started ordering some good spices from Penzeys Spices. They have some interesting stuff I can't get off the shelf around here.

Food storage has always been important in snow country. It's going to be a long long time before anything comes out of our little garden.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Bushcraft to backpacking to boating

Bushcraft is the skill set to go out into the wilderness with very little or no gear and survive. Once you've got that down, survival with anything at all is much much easier. Heck, just having a knife and a lighter puts you light years ahead of starting with nothing. Throw in a waterproof tarp and you are set up pretty well. It can be difficult and time consuming to make a waterproof shelter from natural materials.

Add a bit more gear and before you know it you are backpacking. Novice backpackers want to take every gizmo known to modern man. Experienced long distance hikers tend to shave down to the bare minimum for comfort.

One thing leads to another. A guy with a 5 pound tent probably needs a pack frame that weights 5 or 6 pounds to carry it, along with all the other gear. A heavy pack requires good heavy hiking boots to keep your ankles from blowing out. The guy with 1.5 pound tarp tent can get by with a much lighter pack. He may even leave the boots behind and be comfortable in hiking sneakers.

No matter how you hike, you learn the value of water. It's heavy, at 8.33 pounds per gallon. It's also something you should always have enough for drinking. Where you can save weight is by limiting your other water usage. Some hikers I've met only bring foods that require little to no clean up. That way they don't waste water cleaning cooking gear. That might be a bit more minimalistic for my tastes, but I like good food.

I am very glad my lovely wife and I have a background in backpacking. We learned some very valuable lessons that transferred over nicely to boating. When you are used to minimal gear, it doesn't take much to increase your comfort and pleasure. You also learned not to waste resources.

Recently I was reading an account from a boater. He was really pleased with himself that he and his wife were able to make 170 gallons of water last all weekend. My lovely wife and I plan on a gallon of water per person per day. What he used in a weekend would last us over two and half months. That includes drinking, dishes, and everything else. Obviously that boater did not have a background in backpacking.

Just like the backpacker with the heavy tent, water usage dictates the size of your gear. The guy used 170 gallons of water was on a good sized trawler. It takes a good sized boat to haul all the stuff around that you “need.” The next thing you know boating is only for well off people.

After backpacking even a small sailboat seems extravagant. You can suddenly carry hundreds of pounds of gear and supplies instead of putting everything on your back. Luxury. People were amazed we were comfortable on a 23 foot sailboat, but we found it roomy enough. With a small boat repairs and day to day expenses are small. Even a couple on a small pension can go boating.

Perhaps it's easier to start small and work your way up. The guy who was proud of his 170 gallon water usage probably used hundreds of gallons of water a day at his large home. Compared to his normal lifestyle, he was conserving. I wonder what he would have thought about getting by on a gallon a day.

Owners of larger boats say living on a small boat is camping. For them, that's a negative, but I take it as a compliment. It helps if you happen to like camping. In fact, those people don't look any happier than my lovely wife and I. Good thing we've done some real camping for comparison.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The divide we can't talk about

These days it appears it's fine to talk about race in religion in terms people were afraid to use only a short while ago.

The races and religions are pitted against each other. Sure, there's friction there that cannot be denied. However, I wonder how much of it is to keep us all divided from each other.

Those divisions are minor compared to a really big one we can't talk about. The division is between the vast majority of people and the 0.001% who actually run everything. In the United States we cannot talk about class.

We fight tooth and nail about someone getting a tiny advantage over someone else. Heaven forbid that your kid gets an undeserved free school lunch and I have to pay full price for mine. That's the sort of thing we fight about while billionaires pick our pockets on a daily basis.

Guess what Americans, you are not all temporarily embarrassed millionaires. You are poor nothings to those who control the real wealth. Upward mobility is thing US is mostly a myth.

Education was supposed to be the great leveler. However, connections mean a lot. A child of wealth will do better with a High School education than a poor kid with a college degree. If the rich kid goes to college, he's that much further ahead.

His first advantage is that it's much easier to get into a college when grandpa built the school one of its wings. If a poor kid and rich kid break the rules, guess who'll get thrown out? Upon graduation the rich kid is debt free and the poor kid has massive student loans. When it comes to getting a job, the rich kid will get one without even having to try. He'll either work for one of the family firms or work for the company of a family friend.

I know I'm generalizing, but that's how things generally go. Rich kids rarely join the military. Nixon and Kissinger used to call soldiers fodder units. We aren't people to them. Something to think about before you fight in a war over oil or resources that keep the wealthy in mansions.

Divide and conquer is an old game. They are deathly afraid of the common man. They've run the numbers. If we ever figure out who's stealing from us we could rub them out.

It's not even about Capitalism or Socialism. It's about basic human rights. Once the Supreme Court ruled that corporations have free speech rights like people, I figured the cat was out of the bag. To the rich, the businesses are much more important than human life.

There are a few very wealthy people who are trying to make the world a better place. They are true human beings. The others are just parasites.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Lack of survival skills

This article about millennials lack of survival skills caught my attention. Apparently vast numbers of them don't know how to tie a simple knot or how to kindle a fire.

I think these are really basic skills that everyone should know. Of course, I'm getting old so I must of needed those skills when I was younger and we were all living in caves.

Forget about catching and preparing food. I guess if you can't do it with a smart phone it's not going to happen. They all know how to use Google Maps, but are clueless when it comes to a map and compass.

Don't blame the millennials, blame there parents who should have been in charge of their education. It's easy to let a tablet babysit you kid. Taking them out in the woods and showing them how to survive takes work. Maybe the parents weren't very good at those skills either. Years ago a lot of kids who's parents were not outdoors people had the opportunity to learn survival skills in other ways. Back when I was a Boy Scout we learned basic survival skills and went camping a lot. Not camping at a KOA type place either, but camping where you carried your gear on your back and lived in a tent. Happy memories.

One thing that surprised me is that even people who do outdoor sports don't know how to tie knots. They use ratchet straps and bungee cords to tie down boats and ATVs. Judging from the number of straps and bungee cords I find in the road, they don't do a very good job of that either. It's not that hard to learn 3 or 4 useful knots that can take care of most of your fastening needs. Sure, there are specialized knots that might be better in come cases, but a few basic ones will do the job.

Basic survival skills are not that hard to learn. It does take some time and practice. Knowing how to take care of basic needs are always good to know. Sooner or later high technology is going to fail and needs have to be met in other ways.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Holiday Gift

This year the best holiday gift was having all my kids and grandkids together. I even got to bond with my three and half year old grandson who I haven't seen since he was a baby. It's tough when family lives far away.

I am really proud of my girls. They made it happen. They are strong and independently minded people. It's amazing they are able to work so well together. The downside of raising free thinking children is that it's often like herding cats. They have strong opinions on how things should be done.

Christmas hasn't always been a good time for me. Now I can think back to this past Christmas with warm thoughts.

My lovely wife and I just celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary. Not bad for a couple of 20 year old kids who only knew each other 4 months.

We did something different this year for our New Years celebration. My cousin's girlfriend threw a kids party. The brilliant thing was that instead of waiting until midnight, kid's New Year starts at 10. We did a countdown, toasted with juice, then shuffled all the little ones off to bed. Wonderful.

The only downside is that I lost another brother firefighter. We'd worked together for a long time. He was in good health until a sudden series of strokes. The guy passed away on the 31st. He wasn't all that much older than me. He was a character and will be missed.

However, life goes on. Having all those healthy and happy kids around during the holidays really brought that home for me. I am truly blessed.

Hope this coming year is a good one for all of you. One thing I've learned is that we are responsible for our own happiness. I'm focusing on the positive while preparing against the negative.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

May this new year treat you right. Hope no one is too hungover.

All the best!