Food storage has come a long way. I was thinking back to the old C-rations that dated back to the Vietnam War. There were a lot of them kicking around back in the 70s. My dad got hold of cases of the stuff for the old hunting camp. They made good emergency supplies.
For some reason my Boy Scout troop also got a good supply. My troop did a lot of camping back in those days. Opening up those old rations was always interesting. The cakes were super heavy. Chocolate tasted weird. The crackers were edible, but always seemed just a tad off. The main courses were always a gamble.
Anything with eggs in them were pretty bad, but the most hated ration was the ham and lima beans. That is, hated by most people. For some strange reason I liked them. I was probably the only one who did. Everyone was willing to trade for anything I had to get ride of them. People who grew up eating real ham and lima beans hated them. Maybe that's why I found them satisfactory. I'd never eaten lima beans so had no expectation what they were supposed to really taste like.
One thing sticks out in my mind back from my old Boy Scout days. Those ration packs came with cigarettes. The adult leadership made sure we always turned them in. After the Scouts were sent to bed, the leadership would sit around the campfire smoking those government issued cancer sticks. Funny what you remember.
Modern dehydrated foods are a lot better than those old rations. I guess the best that could be said for them is that they would keep you alive.
The quickest way to find a government shutdown solution is to have a real shutdown. Shut down air traffic by sending the TSA and air traffic controllers home. Stop checks to the military and Social Security. Let the Secret Service agents go home. The quickest way would be to stop the paychecks of the politicians. A solution would be found within 20 minutes.
Instead we have this cherry picking of agencies. Some people are sent home. Others have to work without pay.
I discovered something interesting. Let's say you have one of those “essential” jobs like a prison guard. A lot of them took vacation time for the holidays. Many made travel plans like buying airline tickets and hotel reservations. Not only are they not getting paid for the vacation, the vacation time itself is canceled and they have to come into work. It's either that or lose their job.
Of course, you can only have people come to work so long without pay. At some point people have to find a paying gig.
There are a lot of private contractors who take it on the chin. Most people don't realize how much of the government functions are actually run by private contractors. For example, most Federal campgrounds are run by private companies. Don't let the green uniforms fool you, most of the people doing the work are not Federal employees. Imagine being a carpenter doing work for a government agency that suddenly loses its funding. These people aren't getting paid either.
I really don't like the way the two party system has taken over the country. That's not in the Constitution. It's something that developed as time went on. People don't look at the individuals who make the laws. Instead, too many are rooting for their party as if they are sports teams. As long as the opposite team is losing, they feel good about themselves. Unfortunately, we are all this together and everybody loses.
My lovey wife and I took a hard look at our budget. We did a number of tedious financial shenanigans to squeeze about another hundred per month out of our budget. It wasn't easy. We felt pretty proud of our ourselves.
Then a few days later we discover our house taxes have gone up about eighty dollars per month. There's not much that can be done about that. Either you pay it -or you live in a van down by the river.
Living in a van down the river isn't what is used to be either. Of course, we sold our van, so there's that. However, we are pretty well set up for tent camping. It's very tempting to head south this time of year for fun in the sun. Subzero mornings make me reconsider my winter plans.
Right now all those prime spots down by the river are taken. Thousands of people have been thrown out of Federal Campgrounds. Last year we got to see it up and close and personal. The shutdowns were short last winter. Currently, there's no end in sight. There's a lot more Federal campgrounds than people realize. Most people are aware of campgrounds in National Forests. They also have campgrounds run by agencies like water conservation districts and Department of the Interior lands.
There are still ways to live cheap. Plenty of stealth campers have their hidden spots. Some people spend the majority of their nights in these “unofficial parking” spots. It can be a cheap way to live, but they are always in danger of police or security knocking our their door at three in the morning.
It's still legal in most places to live at anchor on a boat. As long as you have the minimum safety gear and a reasonably sound craft, the Coast Guard will leave you alone. It's not the staying on the water that's hard. Problems develop when you need to go to land.
For starters you need some sort of dinghy. It's your car. That can range from everything from a paddle board to a rigid inflatable with a forty horse engine. The big issue can be shore access. At some point you have to resupply, do the laundry, walk the dog, and take care of other business. Now and then the boat needs repair or even a complete haul out. Bottom paint doesn't last forever. Some places are boater friendly. Others are not.
Personally, I still like the live on the boat thing as a fall back option. You need a certain level of physical agility to make it work, but when I look at my tax bill I'm tempted.
The dog insisted I get up early and let her out. That was a couple days ago when we had an unusual warm front move in. It was 6:20 in the morning and raining hard. Suddenly I heard an ice auger fire up. Some determined ice fisherman was out drilling fishing holes before it even got light. All I could think was that that poor guy had a much worse home life than I had.
My legs are still getting better, but it's a long process. My right leg has swelling issues and the only thing to do is to put the foot and relax. That really cuts into my day. However, I have to take care of myself until I'm all better.
Now it's back to more normal winter conditions for northern New Hampshire. Our snow pack took a beating, but we still have more than enough for a white Christmas. Most of this year's Christmas celebrations will be taking place in town rather that at our home. That's fine. The most important thing is that we spend it with family and friends.
My lovely wife and did set up some lights and tree. Our tree is the most Charlie Brown tree we ever set up. We cut them off our own land. Ideally, we take trees that will have to come down anyway. That doesn't always make for he best looking tree, but a tree is a tree. I get a huge kick out of it.
Hope everyone has a good Christmas Eve. All the best.
Well, my son-in-law's out of work thanks to the government shut down. Just one of thousands, but it hits close to home. By the way, he did not sign up for that. He signed up to provide low interest housing loans to poor rural people. On his last day he could have worked from home. Instead, he spent six hours on the road to make sure a contractor would get paid and a family would be in a home for Christmas.
Personally, I'm sick and tired of this shut down foolishness. It's always for some politician to make a political point. What it does in reality is mess up the lives of everyday people. A single mom I know will be working at the Federal prison without pay. Ask her how she feels about missing paychecks around the holidays.
Last time this happened we were camping in Federal campgrounds. Those get shut down too. Campers end up scrambling around trying to find some other place to camp. Most campers are a long way from home, or actually RV full time.
The longer this goes on, the more stress common people will suffer. Most government workers are like everybody else. They are trying to do the best job they can.
Some people complain that it's hard to cook for just two. No it isn't. I just cooked a twenty pound turkey for the lovely wife and I.
Obviously we didn't eat the whole twenty pounds. So why cook so much turkey? Where else can you get meat for $0.69 a pound? Sure there's some waste, accounting for bones and other parts, but it's still a deal.
Now I have lots of leftovers for other meals. My oven roasted turkey compares very favorably with turkey cold cuts. Not only is it cheaper, it's a lot less processed. The flavor is much better too.
I think it's worth it for the soup alone. A twenty pound turkey makes a heck of a lot of amazing soup. Right now the bones are simmering along on the woodstove. Then there's the boat load of gravy. It might not be the healthiest thing, but a small amount adds amazing flavor to a hot turkey sandwich.
A lot of people are intimidated with the idea of cooking such a big bird. It's not that hard. If I can do it in a wood cook stove, anybody can cook one. The key is to have a good meat thermometer. Cooking in my woodstove can be uneven. If you keep turning the bird every hour or so it will cook more evenly. Then test the temperature in a number of places. Don't rely on the cheap pop up thermometers that come come with a lot of birds. There are plenty of helpful hints in cookbooks and on-line to guide you. Don't let them intimidate you. As long as all the meat reaches the proper temperature, you are good. Sure, basting, seasoning, and covering parts of the bird in foil can help, but it's hard to totally ruin a bird.
This is the time of year when deals on turkeys can be had. If you've got a freezer, now is the time to stock up.
My lovely wife and I are old enough to remember Home Economics and Shop classes. Yes, when we took them it was a rare guy who cooked and the rare girl who swung a hammer. Frankly, we should have all taken both courses. I've never regretted having both skill sets. Girls dig a guy who can cook.
These days those practical classes have pretty much disappeared. We didn't have computer classes back in the day. They were just coming in around the time we graduated high school back in 1976. Maybe that's what replaced the other courses.
It is disturbing the number of people who lack some really basic skills. Something like one third of Americans don't even know how to boil water. Twenty percent don't know how to use a can opener. People can't make mashed potatoes -from potatoes. They don't know how to scramble a couple of eggs. Drivers don't know how to change a flat tire or how to check the oil in the car. (hint, you don't wait for the little engine oil light to come on.)
Perhaps all the time we spend looking at screens has seriously cut into our time to do things in the physical world?
Never mind doing something like making your own pizza from scratch. The last pizza I make I ground whole wheat berries and made my own crust. I made a low salt pizza from basic ingredients. Being able to cook healthy meals from raw ingredients is becoming a lost art. Too many people eat nothing but microwavable prepared foods or take out.
What I find even more disturbing than people's lack of skills is their reluctance to even try to learn how to do things. I don't know where that attitude comes from. It's okay to make mistakes. It's fine to experiment a little. More helpful information is available than ever before, but there's more reluctance to try than ever before. Not everything you do has to be Instagram perfect.
There are more and more people living in their vehicles. They could be anything from a giant RV to a tiny economy car. Van living is particularly popular. It's not just retired people either. Sometimes it's people who've lost their homes. Some people are living a mobile life because they can't afford housing. It's not just minimum wage earners either.
At the same time there's been some push back from different municipalities against those living in vehicles. Even Warmarts have fewer locations that allow overnight stays. However, there are phone apps that make it easier to find places that allow overnight parking.
When I was traveling in my ambulance conversation we didn't have too many problems finding a place to stop for the night. If you are just passing through it's not too hard to find parking. Problems start when you want to stay somewhere longer term. Of course, we did a lot of camping. Inexpensive Federal campgrounds and free woods camping is available.
That's fine if you are retired or on vacation. If you have to make a living, backwoods living is less than ideal. Jobs and services are in the cities. The urban camper has a lot more limitations. They are also more likely to run afoul of property owners. The police know who pays their wages so don't hesitate to knock on doors and get people moving.
That makes vehicle living tough. The stress of finding a safe spot wears on a person. Constantly having to move is an issue too. Fuel isn't free. Wear and tear on a moving vehicle adds up. Eventually the vehicle turns into a worn out piece of junk. An eyesore like that sticks out and makes residents nervous. To successfully live in a vehicle, you have to keep it maintained and be able to replace it when it wears out.
Plenty of vehicle dwellers are their own worse enemies. They leave behind containers of urine and feces. Some dump their garbage in the parking lot even when there are perfectly good waste containers nearby. Those with alcohol, drug or violent mental issues really get people up in arms. Can't really blame them for doing so. Those bad apples make it hard for everyone else.
Should the economy take a steep downturn, there are going to be a lot more people living in vehicles. I talked to quite a few people who've been on the road since the 2008 real estate collapse. These people never went back to “normal” living.
It can be a fun adventure. My lovely wife and I enjoyed it, but we weren't trying to earn a living while on the road. It's one thing if you choose to travel. It's another if circumstances force you on the road. The more successful ones have had time to plan. They tend to be in vehicles more suited to living than a Honda Civic.
One woman I talked to bought a newer van with cash while she was still in a house and employed. By the time she was out of the house and job, she had a converted van and some traveling cash. She found a way to earn a little money on-line. That takes care of her few needs. Right now I don't think she wants to move back into a house. The vagabond life has its perks -if you do it right.
Looks like the stock market will end the year in rough shape. When the financial guys talk about the worse loses since the lead up to the 1930 depression, you know something's wrong.
Bitcoin took some bad hits not that long ago. While I'm attracted to the idea of non-state sponsored money, Bitcoin has some flaws. We now see it's as susceptible to manipulation as any other financial instrument. Then there's the whole idea of Bitcoin mining. To me, it just seems wasteful to have computer power and massive amounts of electricity doing what's essentially non-productive work.
Gold and silver traditionally hold their value. However, there's the little issue of being able to transfer that value into useful items. The local Walmart won't take your precious metals for groceries. In the early days of financial collapse, cash is still king. Later on, it's possible that mechanisms for the exchange of metals could develop. After Argentina's financial collapse, black market stores eventually would take metals for consumer items. That didn't happen overnight.
The bulk of my income comes from my state pension. My guess is that it survive the early waves of private pension failures. I also suspect that its real world value will then plummet. However, as long as I can pay the basic bills for a while we should be good. Nothing is guaranteed, of course. I've come to accept a certain amount of unpredictability.
So what am I'm invested in? Well, recently I bought a burlap bag full of garbanzo beans. You may laugh, but I can eat the beans, unlike stocks, bitcoin, or precious metals. I'm a simple man.
It's been an expensive heating season. The early deep cold we received really did a number on people's utility bills. It doesn't help that New Hampshire has particularly high electric rates. It's bad enough that I know a number of people who've cut way back on their Christmas lights.
My electric bill went up some. Due to the lack of sunlight I've had to buy more power from the grid. The brutal cold has not helped either. This year we also added an electric fireplace in the living room. I know it raises my bill, but the direct heat really feels good. Gotta keep the lovely wife happy. Even so, all in all, my electric bill only went up about $20. Considering other people's bills have jumped by hundreds, we aren't doing bad at all.
Heating oil is the common fuel here in New England. Fortunately, prices are not a high as they used to be. I've been using some oil myself. When the temperatures drop below zero, my little kitchen woodstove doesn't quite keep up. I'd have to get up in the night a few times to keep it stoked. Frankly, I'd rather get my rest and let the oil heat run a few hours.
I was gifted some firewood. Some was dry enough to burn so that was used this fall. The rest of the wood has to dry and will be ready for next fall. The local lumber yard will deliver pressed sawdust blocks by the pallet. There's no delivery charge when buying in those amounts. It's pretty handy. They burn hot and clean. When I use them my chimney doesn't have to be swept as often.
Running the woodstove not only saves on heating oil, it saves on electricity. With the stove going all my cooking is done with wood instead of electric burners. One thing that people don't think about is that an oil furnace also uses electricity. The oil gun uses electric power to ignite and pump the fuel. Then either water pumps or air blowers move the heat around. That adds up.
Of course, even with my modest needs, it's still cheaper to go camping in a Florida National Park for the winter. Might end up doing that before the winter's over.
It's good to have roots. It's to know you belong somewhere. For many people the biggest thing that connects them to a place is owning a house. A friend recently bought the house she had been renting. She had mixed feelings about it. On one hand, she felt she was making a deeper commitment to the community. On the other hand, she felt like she was tied down. Once you buy a house it's a lot harder to pack up and leave.
Of course, there's a lot more to roots than home ownership. There's family connections, friends, your church, people of your same culture and jobs. Nostalgia and memories that are formed over time can bind you to a place. Unless you live your life as a hermit, you are bound to put down roots. Even the love of your favorite restaurant can form ties. Maybe nobody else makes your favorite dish the way they do.
There is strength in having roots. When times get tough there are people and local resources that you can call on. They can help you survive.
On the flip side, roots can get you killed. Have you ever wondered why its usually only a tiny fraction of a population that leaves before their country becomes a war zone? All the signs can be there, but most people close their eyes and hope for the best. It's tough to leave those roots behind.
Being tied too tightly to your roots can stop someone from traveling. They become afraid of anything that's different. One of the whole points of travel is to discover different things. Travel opens up the mind, usually. Today it's possible to “see the world” in carefully managed groups that avoid too much contact with local conditions. That's not really travel. That's bringing your cultural bubble with you -sorta like a hamster in an exercise ball.
One of the sailing YouTube channels I watch is “Sailing Uma.” In their first video they say, “Don't buy a couch.” In short, once you buy a couch, everything snowballs from there. A couch is an investment. Then you need a job, a place to put the couch, and so on. Before you know it, you have a house, credit card dept and everything else that ties you down. This nice young couple did not buy a couch, they bought an old sailboat and have been traveling for three years now.
My lovely wife and I enjoy both worlds. We love having roots, but we also love travel. It's possible to do both. The key is not to get too attached to your things. Over and over again I meet people who are afraid to leave their house for more than a week or two. They don't own their house, their house owns them. Roots are good, but never let them chain you down.
This past fall the empty cottage across the road from me got a new owner. The previous owner had done a lot of work on it -all of it of terrible quality. One of the issues was a leaky roof. While the metal roof was new, it had been improperly installed.
Then there was the fact that the property was basically used as a gravel pit. Dump truck load after dump truck load was removed from a piece of land about 300 by 100 feet. A hill was turned into a pit. That came back to bite the new owner. Somehow, during the string of subzero nights, underground water burst free and flooded his basement. The new owner spent 18 hours straight trying to plow a new channel for the water. To add insult to injury, that hole was supposed to be filled by the crew rebuilding the road. However, they were delayed. Then snow and cold brought road construction to a halt.
There's also been a whole host of other annoyances. The satellite TV company put the dish in exactly the right location for ice sliding off the roof to take it out. Workmen paid to do work for three days ghosted after three hours. Just about anything that could go wrong has gone wrong. Worse yet, it's early in the winter.
Last time I talked with him we said he thinks he found a buyer. The current owner wants to move to Arizona and never deal with a winter in the woods ever again.
There's an old saying that every person has two doctors, their left leg and their right leg. I guess the idea is that walking will take care of a host of ills. It's a scientific fact that daily moderate exercise provides huge health benefits.
So for months now my walking has been severely limited due to nasty leg infections. As an aging fat guy, waking is really important to my general health. While the infection seems to be under control, there's some damage that needs to heal up. It's still painful to do too much.
However, I'm doing stuff anyway. This has gone on for too long. I'm back to walking. A good friend recommend that I start with a much shorter distance than I used to do. He was right. Months of limited activity has taken their toll. Even though it was a shorter walk than normal, it was enough of a work out. Tomorrow I'll do little bit more. Over time I should be able to put in some real distance. In the short term it's more important to just get moving and avoid injury.
The improved circulation from walking should hasten the healing process. It's also darn good for my mental state right now.
We owned our converted ambulance to camper for about seven years. We had a great time with it, but it was time to move on. Last winter we had a wake up call. When the brakes went we discovered we were at the mercy of mechanics. Some we ran into were pretty shady. One tried to tell us that leaking brake lines could turn into a $3000+ job.
In the end we were able to get the work done for $440. However, my local mechanic assures me we did pay the “Yankee Tax.” At least the work was well done and we got home. The brake line episode really stressed out my lovely wife. She wondered what we would do if the cost was more than we could afford. Remember, she's just heard from a different mechanic how it could cost thousands. I told her that if that happened we'd rent a car, throw our stuff into it, and abandon the van.
Right now we are doing just fine with our little economy car. It's only three years old and has never given us any trouble. We are even set up for off-grid camping with a good tent, solar power, and many comforts.
The one thing our little car cannot do is to tow anything. That's a problem as we've got an Oday 19 sailboat on a trailer. My daughter is willing to use her truck to launch and pick up our boat from the lake each year. That's nice, but limits us to one body of water. However, she did offer to tow the boat down to Virginia for me so I could sail the ICW. The trip fell apart, but not because of the towing issue.
It would be nice to be able to tow the boat to different places, but I hesitate to get a big fuel burning vehicle. Another option would be to ignore the whole towabilty thing completely. Instead we get a larger boat more suited to cruising the coast and the Bahamas. That would require paying for storage on the hard now and then, but at least we wouldn't be paying for a big tow vehicle.
If you've been following my blog you know I've been stuck with a lot of medical bills lately. How can I be thinking about getting a truck or a boat? Well the funny thing is, if you look hard and think out of the box a bit, stuff happens. We got the ambulance for a tiny fraction of what it was worth. Not only that, some unexpected funds fell into our lap at about the same time.
We've been offered free boats a number of times -some of them were pretty good boats too. Either they weren't quite right for us or required more work than we wanted to put into them. However, I am handy with tools and know how do fiberglass repairs. If we really decide a bigger boat is the way to go, it can happen. Sometimes we've been offered boats just because people lost their storage space. You have to be ready to move quickly and most people dither around too long.
Of course, nothing is going to happen until at least after the holidays. Besides, I'm still healing up. Hopefully there won't be any doctor's visits to run the bills up further. My lovey wife and I are always looking at our options for the next adventure.
Most people have some vague idea that there were protests about a hike in fuel costs in France. If you only watch the regular news channels you'd think it was over. After all, the government backed down on the tax, so everything's fine.
That's not the case at all. The fuel tax was not the only problem. It was the straw that broke the camel's back. The protests are about a whole range of things. In general, however, it's about how the government has lost touch with the middle class and caters mostly to the rich. Wages are stagnant, costs are up, pensions aren't enough, The urban centers have prospered at the expense of the rural areas.
It's not just about France anymore either. Protest have spread across Europe. They've been going on for about a month too. The big difference between protests in Europe and protest in America is that Europeans expect things to actually change when the go into the streets. In the US, protests don't have the same impact. The last time protests had any real power in this country was during the Vietnam war. Breaking a few windows at a Starbucks isn't going to change government policy.
So why don't protests work in the US? There's some speculation that young people can't afford to protest. Unlike most young Europeans, they have huge student debt and more more job insecurity. They would also lose their health care if they lost their job. It's those factors that keep middle class people on the sidelines.
So far that's worked just fine for the powers that be. The problem is, as some point, conditions get bad enough that people have nothing to lose. Should that time come, it's going to get really ugly. Right now, as bad as things are, we aren't in a recession or a depression. My guess is that if enough people who think themselves middle class end up poor, they are going to be more than a little irate. It's said that when people have nothing to left to lose, they lose it. If that happens in the US, European protests are going to look like Sunday picnics by comparison.
New Hampshire is consistently rated the safest state in the country. Maine and Vermont are close behind. It's not something you notice -until it's gone.
Once you get beyond food, shelter and clothing, security is one of those basic needs. If you don't feel safe and secure, your whole life suffers. It makes it hard to do anything or to plan for the future.
Some people look at northern New England and figure we are safe because it's fairly rural with a low population density. That helps, but it takes more than that. Alaska has a disturbingly high crime rate.
Good jobs and good schools make a huge difference. If people are able to make a decent living, property crime tends to go down. I think another factor is that people have a sense of community. There tend to be more of a neighbor helping neighbor feel to things. Maybe it's because we have all help each other to survive the cold winters.
Sure, living in a safer area is nice, but when times gets rough, it's going to really matter. I'm not so naive to think that some sort of collapse won't cause problems. When people are stressed the ugly can come out. However, if you are living in an area that's already bad, imagine how much worse it could be. If you aren't safe now, how rough will it get in a SHTF situation?
In my travels Monday I ran into someone I hadn't seen in a while. He asked me if was sticking around this winter or heading south. I said my lovely wife and currently plan to stay north, but we could change our mind. It would take about half a day to pack up and head to warmer weather. I told the guy we could suddenly decided to pitch a tent on a beach somewhere.
“Oh I could never do that,” he said, “I need my comfort.”
Oh the horrors of living in a tent. Right. We have a well made roomy tent that keeps the rain out. It has an attached screened in area, perfect for a couple chairs and a small table. Our bed is a queen sized double thick air mattress. We have enough solar electric power to run a small 12 volt refrigerator, my c-pap device, phones, computers, book readers and an Internet hotspot.
Instead of shoveling snow in sub-zero temperatures we could be living in shorts and flip flops. That really doesn't sound too uncomfortable to me. I don't what his idea of camping is, but it's probably a lot different than the way we normally camp. We like our comfort too.
In other news, I spent the morning running around paying bills. I was smart enough to bring my old receipts to the hospital billing office. Turns out they tried to double bill me for two lab tests. Catching that saved me a few bucks. Hospital billing is a tangled mess, but I've been staying on top of it.
My coffee roaster died. At first I thought it was a problem with the circuit breaker, but it was the roaster itself. The thing was bought back in August and has already died. I wrote the manufacturer to see what they could do for me. They'd better do something if they don't want a one star review on Amazon. So it was back to roasting coffee pioneer style, on the woodstove in a covered cast iron skillet.
The legs continue to improve. The antibiotics are messing up my gut a bit. Yogurt helps a lot. One more week and I should be set. Most of the pain now is just a lot of itching from the healing. The open wounds have closed and more of the skin is back to normal. Progress, finally.
In other words, space blankets. I'm referring to those low weight, low volume thin reflective blankets. Sometimes they are called emergency blankets. They work by reflecting a person's body heat back to them. You wouldn't want to use them in everyday use, but they could be a life saver in an emergency. I picked up a four pack to keep in the dash of my car.
For more regular use they make a space blanket with a more rugged tarp like backing. They don't fold down to as small a package, but can be used over and over again. They are perfect for camping. Blow up air mattresses can be freezing in cold weather. We put one foil side up and stay toasty warm. They are also great for keeping your back warm while sitting around a campfire.
Get one large enough use as an emergency shelter. Most of them have grommets that can be used to tie it off. At one time there were military surplus space blankets with a built in hood and pockets on the corners for your hands. That made it easy to wrap around you. I don't know if they make them anymore.
Real blankets are more comfortable, but take up a lot more room. They also become useless when wet. Space blankets work on a different principle, reflection instead of insulation, so they keep working.
Space blankets are one of those miracles of modern science. They work well, take up very little room and are dirt cheap. It's inexpensive insurances against cold weather emergencies.
Our current world economic model is unsustainable. It needs constant growth to function properly. That's impossible, of course. Eventually it runs into some hard limits. Then we have a reset. It could be as mild as a recession. It could be a more serious depression. Heck, it could even be the collapse of governments and civilizations.
The weird thing about our system is that it is not designed to make people happy. Studies have proven that money only increases happiness until a certain level of comfort is reached. Beyond those rather basic needs, more money increases happiness hardly at all. It can even make a person unhappier. Their concern and worry about their money can separate them from the more simple joys in life.
Supplying basic needs doesn't have to be that hard. Food, shelter, and clothing pretty much cover one's needs. When you get right down it a garden, hut, and homespun fabric does the job. Ironically, that's hard to do and the barriers are all artificial man made impediments. Just try turning your front yard into garden or try in live in a simple tiny self-built house. Zoning regulations won't allow it. Fashion and even job requirements won't allow you to wear simple clothes.
The things that actually make us happy are sustainable. Art, music, philosophy, literature, community, love, and honest work don't require massive resources. A deeply spiritual life not only does not require material wealth, it often benefits from rejecting the pursuit of unneeded wealth.
We know that the natural world makes people happier and healthier. Yet our current economic system has us clear cutting forests and polluting the air and water. A gray dead world is a poor trade for cheaper consumer goods.
Is a happier world a pipe dream? No, it's a necessity. Like I said at the beginning, infinite growth is impossible. There is always a collapse. That would be a good time to restructure the world into a nicer place to live.
We don't have to wait. When I was in my early 20s I had the chance to make a lot more money. I was single guy with no responsibilities and could have really piled up some cash. Then it occurred to me that I'd rather go fishing. That's what I told my boss anyway. Later, I also chose to spend more time with my kids than work a second job. It didn't make sense to work a second job only to pay some stranger to raise my children. My most fortunate bit of luck was finding a spouse with similar values. While I don't have a lot of money, I have beauty, love and nature in my daily life. It's a good way to live.
My lovely wife and I normally stay up north until after Christmas. This year we made plans to stay for the whole winter. The furnace was serviced and heating oil purchased. The woodstove is in good shape. More insulation was placed on top of the buried waterline in hopes it would not freeze.
Due to early snow it's feels like the middle of winter. That's nice for the Christmas spirit. It's not really Christmas without snow on the ground.
Biting insects have all died. That's one bright spot. I've better footwear and coats for the cold. The car has snow tires. Our house solar electric system has a new battery bank -very handy when snow laden trees take down the power lines
One of my problems with the cold is my damaged lungs. Very cold air sends me into massive coughing fits. This year I'm using a face mask and that helps a lot.
Most of my friends and family are in the Northeast. It's nice to have your tribe around. Even with my painful leg infection, I've made the effort to connect with people.
Our adult niece has been living with us since she moved out from her boyfriend's house. She's slowly been getting her act together. She now has some income, her car's been fixed, but she's had difficulty getting a new apartment. We can't just leave her alone at the house and go traveling. In the past when I've had winter house sitters, I had to write out a manual on how the house runs. There are two different electrical systems: grind and off-grid. There are water filters that need periodic changing. Air filters need changing. Maintaining the woodstove and chimney is a whole other issue. My niece lacks the skills to take proper car of things. That's just the way it is.
Recently, my niece seems to have the chance to get into a place of her own. Once she moves out, it won't actually be necessary for us to stick around. We may still do so, but we won't feel obligated to do so.
Should we decide to go traveling, it would not take long to leave. We could pack up the car and shut down the house in a day. There are some good solid reasons to travel.
First of all, we love to travel. We like to see new things and meet new people. Of course, we also like to go somewhere warm. My in-laws are in Texas and getting along in age. I understand if my lovely wife would like to spend some time with them. It's easier for me to get exercise when camping in the sunny south. I lose pounds without even trying. My lungs feel better.
So how do the costs break down? It's pretty much a toss up. We can camp pretty inexpensively. Our car is easy on gas. The big cost savings is not having to heat the house. That gets pricey, especially when we have those sub-zero days with the wind howling.
What will we do? No idea. We have flexibility. I'm thinking that much depends on how the winter develops. Nothing like never ending cold and constant snowstorms to tip the balance,
The stock market has been doing some pretty dramatic gyrations of late. The break for a Presidential funeral didn't seem to dampen the financial craziness. When they reopened on Thursday it didn't take long for things to go south.
There are many people concerned that the US yield curve has inverted. Wish I understood it well enough to explain it to other people. Let's just say it's a pretty good indicator of a recession or even a depression. It may take a year or two to get there, but that's one of the ways these things start.
Like a lot of Americans, I don't have much invested in the markets. That's doesn't mean I'm safe. My state retirement plan is invested in the market. I haven't gotten a raise in over ten years because the last recession hurt the fund so much. When the people who own businesses have to cut back, people lose their jobs. The little guys aren't safe from financial meltdowns.
The world political situation is dicey. Russia is rattling sabers, threatening Ukraine and vowing to build more nuclear weapons. China has territorial issues. There are any number of smaller conflicts in the world that have the potential to drag in the big players. The problem with proxy wars is that they sometimes aren't limited to the proxys. Sometimes their big backers stumble into a toe to toe struggle.
As countries suffer internal unrest from worsening conditions, they traditionally go to war. Nothing like a war for changing citizens' focus. Usually most people rally around the flag in time of war -at least in the beginning.
While everything could go up in flames tomorrow, odds are it will take some months or even a couple years. There are many factors that can lessen the consequences. However, that takes both good leadership and a fair amount of luck.
Is that something you want to bet on? Anything you do now to lessen your exposure to these risks could pay off big time in the future. If I'm wrong you've become more self-reliant when your didn't really need to. If I'm right, it could save you a world of grief.
Let's see what happens during the rest of the month. That may give us a hint of things to come.
The visit to the clinic went well enough. They noted my recent progress, agreed to extend my antibiotics for two weeks, and figured that will do it.
I'm really looking forward for this to be over. I'm advised not to get back into my exercise program until the legs are fully healed. I can do that.
However, I now know how important it is that I get back in condition. It occurred to me that over the years I've suffered a number of injuries. Sure, they healed up, but there must be some long lasting damage. That's where the infections start up. However, as long as I keep moving my circulation is good and there aren't any problems.
This long healing process really inspired me to take better care of myself. It seems I can't get away with everything I used to.
I'm heading back to the clinic today. Sigh. This never seems to end. Two weeks of antibiotic treatments have produced mixed results. My left leg and part of my right cleared. Open wounds scabbed over and quite a lot of the scabs fell off revealing healed skin. However, there's still a section on my right leg that's open. Of course, it's still pretty painful.
To me it's obvious there's still infection there. Now the smart thing to do would be to take a sample, send it to the lab to see what the bacteria is sensitive too. At the very least, I should get another broad spectrum antibiotic. If they don't so something like that, I'm going to be pretty put out. Twice before my legs were well on the way to being healed, but then they cut off antibiotics. I shall make a stink if that's what they try to do this time.
The nurse practitioner handling my case strongly encouraged me to talk to the hospital customer service department. The nurse could not believe there wasn't some program for someone in my situation. She thought there had to be some sort of special insurance for someone like me. She's adorable. The finance people and I have a fairly short conversation. What they offer is a 37% cash discount. If a test is going to be expensive, they require a hefty deposit up front. Those are my options. That's pretty much what I expected.
Frankly, I wasn't going to have those tests and treatments anyway. The nurse practitioner is trying to cover all her basis. That's not really necessary in this case. She doesn't realize it, but once my leg infection is taken care of, she's probably never see me again. Losing weight, eating better, and getting more exercise is something I don't need the hospital for.
The best way to keep your food storage fresh is eat from it on a regular basis. That's a good plan for a couple of reasons. Your stock gets rotated over time as you always draw from the older stuff before it expires. Another often overlooked reason is that you actually practice cooking and eating from stored food. There are people who are heavily stocked up with beans and rice, but never eat them in their day to day life. During a disaster you don't want to learn new cooking skills and get used to different foods. You also don't want to discover you've undstocked something critical like hot sauce.
With that in mind I've replaced all the dehydrated foods I field tested during the winter. One addition is instant Mountain House breakfast foods. Those aren't great, but they are edible, quick and have the calories you need. After trying those out, I'm happy there's so much oatmeal in storage as it's a tastier breakfast. Still, nobody wants to eat the same thing all the time.
The problem with eating from your stored food is that you have to remember to restock. At one time I'd thought I'd bought way too much rice. Imagine my surprise the other day when I found myself scraping the bottom of the barrel to find enough rice for dinner. It didn't take me very long after that to buy more. All my beans would be very lonely without any rice.
One of the huge holes in my preps turned out to be medical supplies. My recent problem with leg infections really brought that home. I've had to go to the store to buy bandages a number of times. While I had more than enough for immediate medical needs, supplies for long term care was lacking.
The thing about preps is that you can't stock them up and forget about them. Supplies have to be managed.
After a month of record breaking snowfall, we start the new month with another storm. This one promises to be a dozy. Here we are expecting 4 -5 inches of heavy wet snow topped off with a half inch of ice. Nothing good can come from that. Hopefully I'll have power and Internet by tomorrow night. If you don't hear from me, you'll know why.
The storm put a screeching halt to my Sunday plans. I've friends who live about 100 miles away in Maine. Sometimes we split the difference and meet in a town between us. We made plans for coffee and a lunch. His drive probably wouldn't have been too bad -mostly in rain. My route goes through the White Mountains, not a good idea.
Looks like we'll be stuck inside all day. . . next to the cozy woodstove, . . drinking fresh coffee. . . eating homemade turkey soup . . . reading good books. I've no idea how we are going to survive.
I am reminded of my great great grandfather who came to Quebec from the old country. They had a horrendous snowstorm that shut everything down. Nothing was moving for days. His neighbors became concerned when my ancestor wasn't shoveling. They assumed something bad had happened to him so they shoveled a path to his door. He was inside the whole time, deep into a good book. He felt the storm was perfect chance to catch up on his reading.
Most of us grow up attached to the part of the world we are raised in. No matter the conditions, it's home. Then some folks become adults, take a look around the world, and decide there are better places to live.
Here's one example close to home. Growing up, my niece never lived north of Georgia. During most of her life she lived in northern Florida. At age twenty-five she decided life might be better for her up here in New Hampshire. She made the move. It hasn't always been easy for her, but in the five years she's lived here, I've never heard her complain about the cold. Turn out she really hated heat and humidity.
She's lucky in that she had family here to help with the transition, but it was still a bold move. She was also at a point in her life where she wanted to experience something totally different.
One thing about being born in the United States, we are a huge country with just about every environment imaginable. There are also vast cultural differences from region to region. An individual can drastically change their way of life without needing a passport or learning a new language. Even with the relative ease of changing regions in the United States, most people stay close to where they were born.
In fact, people are now less likely to move then they were years ago. At one time it was pretty common for people to move for their career. That's less likely today. Even within economically depressed parts of the country, folks tend to stay close to home. While the financial opportunities may be somewhat better elsewhere, family and friend connections are more important. There are other factors at play too, such as a deep attachment to the land and the way of life. A person who grew up on the coast may find it difficult to adapt to the mountains of Colorado.
From a prepper perspective, it's a darn good idea to really give your home area a good dispassionate examination. Are you really living in a good place? Just because you were born on the slope of a volcano doesn't mean you have to stay there. Maybe you shouldn't live on a flood plane just because your ancestors always did. Perhaps -30 weather really isn't your thing. Even more basic, a rural life might suite better than a city one.
There are few things so basic to survival and safety than where one lives. Even though that's the case, only a tiny percentage of people voluntarily pull up stakes and move. Now sometimes there's no choice. If a drought dries up your farmland and the wind blows it away, you've got a lot of pressure to move. It takes a special person to look around and think to move somewhere else. Most people, if they are getting by at all, tend to stay close to home.
We had no choice on where we were born. It was an accident of birth. By the time we are adults, most people stick around, even though life may be better for them elsewhere.
Personally, I happen to love my place up here in the woods and mountains. However, I also like to travel and have become attached to places many miles away. That's why I think of myself as semi-nomadic, which is a whole different blog post.
According to the CDC, the life expectancy in the United States is going down. That's not supposed to happen in advanced industrialized countries. What's truly disturbing is that drug overdoses and suicide are major factors.
It's a sign that our society is not a happy nor a healthy one. People who's lives have meaning do not kill themselves, nor seek escape in drugs. There's a classic experiment. Rats were given the opportunity to self administer drugs. Soon they were using drugs to the exclusion of everything else until they died. That study was held up to demonstrate the powerful attraction of drugs.
However, there was a recent study similar to the first, but with a critical difference. The rats were put in an environment that was stimulating and interesting. These rats did not drug themselves to death. Turns out rats only drudged themselves to death when stuck in a boring cage with nothing to do.
My theory is that our society has become a boring cage for too many people. Let's face it, vast numbers of people don't have anything interesting to do. They have crappy jobs that don't mean anything. David Graeber has written a new book called Bullshit Jobs: A Theory. He points out that many people are working needless jobs -and they know it. People have a need to be valuable and useful.
We have a society that just doesn't work for a large percentage of our population. That's not good. People have no hope. That's can't go on forever. We could continue to make a slow swirl down the drain. On the other hand, societies with no direction are vulnerable to charismatic leaders who promise meaning. That's how ISIS gets willing suicide bombers.
We have plenty of snow cover this November. Snow accumulations have been all over the map. Temperatures have been hovering right around the freezing mark. A few miles or a few hundred feet in elevation make all the difference. We've mostly gotten snow, with the exception of rain last Sunday. Ski areas are pretty happy. Even the cross country trails near me, that rely completely on natural snow, are fully open.
Personally, I think a little snow on the ground looks better than the normal dead grays of a typical northern New Hampshire November.
The last storm didn't affect our grid power, but we lost Internet service for about 18 hours. The heavy snow is taking a lot of trees down. All my hazelnut trees have been flattened. I wonder how well they'll bounce back in the spring?
I've been really fortunate that my daughter and son-in-law have come up to clear my driveways. I am blessed. With the van sold my winter parking spot is now freed up for my car. I've two winter parking spots. They are on the same level as the road. My summer driveway is an uphill climb from the house. That's not great in winter. Worse, it's the side that the town's plow dumps most of the snow on.
Heavy November snows are not unheard of, but we don't get them all that often. When I was a kid my dad and uncle were stuck at the hunting camp because of a sudden three foot snowstorm. The camp was eight miles up a logging road, then about a quarter mile down a fire road. My dad and uncle had to shovel the whole fire road to get their car to the logging road. It took three days. The logging road hadn't been plowed either, but a big logging truck had gone down it. By staying in the truck's tracks they were able to drive out, but they often got stuck and had to do more shoveling. I remember how totally exhausted he was by the time he got home.
Of course, this was back in the day before cell phones. We really didn't have any idea how they were doing until they got out. While we were concerned, we knew they had supplies for a couple weeks. Years later some friends and I got stuck at the camp due to a sudden ice storm. The cell phone service was just barely strong enough to connect. We were able to tell everyone we were fine and just going to sit it out an extra day. What a difference communications can make. Nobody was worried.
At any rate, the snow season is starting off with a bang. Good thing it's pretty.
As mature adults, we are responsible for our own medical care. At the end of the day, a doctor's job is just a job. It's an important job. It's one that takes years of study and training. However, it's your life, not theirs.
I think I'm at the point in my current medical journey where I can decide my own course of action from now on. The doctors can provide assistance, but the decisions are my own. Who's life is it anyway?
There have been enough x-rays, blood tests, and exams to give me some idea what's going on. The person taking the lead on my case isn't even a real doctor but a nurse practitioner. Because of that she may be too ready to send me to specialists that are not needed. For example, she wants me to go back to the wound clinic guy. While he was good for some things, in two visits he missed that my legs were still infected. He thought the problem was just a surface ulcer. Right now I'm in no hurry to see him again.
Then there's the issue of my heart. In a week I went from congestive heart failure to my heart being perfectly fine. The expensive definitive blood test was good, the EKG in the ER was good, the last chest x-ray was good. However, she still wants me to find some way to pay for their expensive cardiac care department. The weird EKG she took in her office has her spooked. The one taken two minutes later in the ER was fine, but there's a long shot possibility that I actually had a weird, totally unfelt, episode in her office. Since that actually happened to her once in her 13 year career, she's worried. I'm not, and it's my body.
Right now I'm still on antibiotics, low salt diet, and I'm taking some pounds off. Once the legs are better the diet and weight loss will continue. At my age there's too much weight to carry around.
That's where things currently stand. I made an appointment to see the nurse practitioner again at the end of this round of antibiotics. Had I been kept on them longer the fist time around this mess would not have happened. She's agreed to extend the antibiotics if necessary.
All in all, I'm making improvements again and feel better about taking charge of my treatments.
Ukraine has issues with the Russians again. Three of their ships and crews have been captured by the Russians. Russian planes also came dangerously close to UK aircraft. While this going on the US has been bombing Syria against strong Russian protests.
What will become of all this? Hard to say. Ukraine claims the Russians are mobilizing for an invasion. That would definitely put the world in crisis. Then again, it could all be posturing. Then again again, global wars have been started over less.
Russia is in a tough spot. Sanctions have taken their toll. Their economy is suffering. The Russian military is no longer a global force. Their only aircraft carrier is currently disabled for months, possibly forever. A nation cannot project overwhelming power without aircraft carriers. That's why China is currently building them.
Russia has excellent military equipment designers. They can turn out world class prototypes of tanks, aircraft, missile defense systems, war ships, submarines and any number of weapons systems. What they currently lack is the industrial might to put large numbers of those projects into production. One of the few things keeping their aircraft industry alive is sales to China. However, China often buys just a few copies and reverse engineers them.
However, Russia is a very potent local force. Ukraine is local. For that matter, Russia can launch aircraft and missiles from their soil to the majority of the world's trouble spots. The Russian leadership knows their position will only get weaker with time. That puts pressure on them to use their remaining power before they lose it.
So what do we do about it? I think it would be a good time to go over your preps. If Russia goes to war, they may indirectly attack the US with cyber attacks. Our power grid is especially vulnerable. Once bullets start flying, there's no telling how crazy things will get before the dust settles. I don't see a nuclear exchange, but would not be surprised to see national economies targeted.
At any rate, this is mostly speculation, but world events certainly should be watched.
Another snowstorm is moving into my area of northern New Hampshire Monday night through Tuesday. Normally I'd sit it out and only shovel after it's over. That way I don't swear at the snowplow that comes by right after digging the car out.
Unfortunately, I have a doctor's appointment on Tuesday morning so I'm going to get up early and shovel out. It's going to be a slow drive into town. My little car has four good snow tires so I should make it. If you live in serious snow country, don't mess around with all season tires. Go right for the aggressive thread of snow tires. They are more noisy on the highway, but it's a small price to pay.
Predictions are all over the map as I write this. We should get at least eight inches, but could get as much as sixteen. We are right on the heavy snow line so a butterfly sneeze could move the storm one way or the other.
My water line survived the recent sub zero temperatures. More snow on top will provide even more protection from frost.
I feel pretty good about our preparations for the storm. There's fuel for the woodstove. The battery backup for the solar electric is working well. We even had a refrigerator full of left over turkey for quick and satisfying meals. My lovely wife made a good soup stock from the turkey bones and other bits. It slow cooked on the woodstove for hours, filling the house with that wonderful aroma.
On the medical front, my legs are getting better. My right one, the worse one, still hurts a fair bit, but the wound is just about closed. That's progress. I upped my over the counter pain meds to the maximum recommended dosage. It's not like me to take a lot of pain meds, but having the pain under control enough to sleep is critical. Still not getting a full nights sleep, but getting three to four hours in a stretch is better than the one to two I've had to survive on. There's about another week's worth of antibiotics left so hopefully the infection is gone by then.
All in all things are going well enough on the home front. Our winter plans are still up in the air. Much depends on my health. We plan on sticking around until after Christmas at least. It's possible we'll spend the whole winter here. On the other hand, we could decide to leave and be out of here in less than half a day. It's a good feeling to know we have the option.
This never ending leg infection situation is getting old. It occurred to me the other day that my legs are worse than when I first went to the doctors many weeks ago. Pretty hard to call that progress. There were times it looked like it was getting better, but then it wasn't.
Right now seems to be one of those getting better times. The doctors have me on two types of antibiotics and a diuretic. I'm also taking more over the counter pain meds than I'd like. Nobody seems to have taken my pain complaints seriously. Right now the medical profession is on the lookout for people seeing pain meds, but this is ridiculous. I haven't been able to sleep more than a couple hours at a time before the pain wakes me up. Right now it's not too bad, so I hope I'm getting better.
A number of people have recommended using Manuka honey on my wounds. Maybe it's a placebo, but my wounds do look better. Frankly, whatever works. I apply the honey onto the bandages then place the bandage over the wound.
I've been limited to how much I can do and it's driving me nuts. Other people have stepped up to help, and that's been a blessing. To distract myself I've been watching a lot of adventure type Youtube channels. It's giving me ideas for the future. Now all I have to do is to get better so I can get back to having fun.
Now that my van's been sold some people have been wondering what we are going to do for camping. Don't worry we have that covered.
We have a small economy car, a Nissan Versa Note. One of the first things I did after buying it was to put good solid Thule roof racks. They are expensive but the quality is worth it. Roof racks are darn useful on a small car where storage space is limited.
The 105 watt solar panel from off the van was mounted to a wood rack that fits right over the roof racks. There's still room for things like folding chairs to be tied next to it. That panel charges a 12 volt deep discharge battery. From that battery we run our 12 volt refrigerator, and all our electronics.
Last fall we purchased a really good L. L. Bean tent at their half price sale. It has standing head room and the floor measures 9.5 X 9.5 feet. It also has an attached screened in area that has plenty of room for a couple chairs and a table. There's a huge difference between a cheap tent and a good one. If you are going to camp for longer than a weekend a good tent makes all the difference.
Our most recent camping addition is a double height, self-inflating, queen sized bed. It's super comfortable.
We have a good propane camp stove, compact lanterns, cookware, water jugs, and all the little bits and bobs needed for comfortable camping.
Everything fits in the little car and there' still plenty of room for the dog. We have everything we need to be comfortable. Now some people thing it's a step backwards to go from a dedicated RV type vehicle. That's one way to look at it. However, even when we still had the van we'd sometimes use a tent instead. We just really love tents. My lovely wife thinks it's romantic and who am I to argue with that?
It's not about the dinner. It's about taking a day to be thankful and grateful for all the good things we've been given in life. The more spiritually advanced may even be thankful for the hard times because it can make us stronger. (Not too sure where I fit in there)
I hope everyone gets to spend some time with friends, family or kind strangers.
My life is full of things to be thankful for. I'm doing my best to not let temporary trials diminish that fact.
Please don't cut the day short with Christmas shopping. One holiday at a time please. Also, if nobody went shopping on Thanksgiving, no store would make their workers come in. Don't be that person who gives a store economic incentive to deprive their workers of a holiday.
There are jobs that must go on: police, fire, EMS, hospital employees, and everybody out there who keeps the roads open and the lights on. I'm grateful for their sacrifice. For all those who keep civilization functioning, I salute you.
I'm also grateful for my blog readers. I'm lucky to have such a nice group of people following my scribblings.
I've been taking it easy. Healing is pretty much full time work for me right now. It's pretty discouraging to see I'm actually worse off than when I first went to the doctors months ago. Getting better does not happen in a straight line.
I've high hopes for the new treatment as it's closer to what worked for me two years ago, but turned up a few notches. One thing positive thing is that I just improved my diet 100%. That should help in the long run.
The hospital gave me a follow up call to see how I thought it was going. For the first time I think I got through to someone that the pain is the biggest factor for me right now. It's preventing me from sleeping more than an hour or two. Tylenol isn't cutting it. If things don't get better by Friday I'm supposed to get back in touch with the hospital.
Anyway, this could all turn around in a day or two. That's the thing with antibiotics. Nothing seems to happen, then poof, the infection goes away.
Hopefully I'll be able to focus on other things soon. This medical talk must be getting boring by now. I know I'm bored with being unwell.
It was one of those days. I was back in the doctor's office for a few tests. This doctor's office is attached to the hospital. It wasn't supposed to be any big production. The nurse did the usual: blood pressure, pulse, listened to my lungs -all that stuff.
Then she did an EKG test for my heart. That's when the circus started. The nurse ran out to get the doctor. Then the doctor ran out to get more help. She came right back to see if I'd lost consciousness. She asked me how I felt, “Did my heart feel like it was racing?”
I told her I felt fine, good enough to split firewood. That seemed to confuse her. She told the emergency room to expect me. They thought I was coming in by ambulance, not from down the hall. Everyone was racing around trying to find a wheelchair that could both carry me and fit down the narrow hallways. Finally, I made it clear I could just walk over. The nurse walked along with me, as if she could do something in case I collapsed.
When I got to the emergency room they took one look at the EKG printout and said, “artifact.” I wasn't sure what that meant. Then they hooked me up to their big machine and it produced a nice normal readout. As it turns out, “artifact” means that the doctor office machine was malfunctioning. The doctor thought I had a heartbeat of 206, instead of the 70 it actually was.
Of course, then the ER sent me for chest x-rays to confirm that my heart wasn't about to explode. That looked pretty good overall too. Crisis adverted.
On the plus side, I got the ER doctor to examine my leg infection issues. She had the nurse give me a treatment and put me on antibiotics again. Also, one of the problems with the legs not getting better is that fact that I've been retaining water. It turns out that my recent diet of bacon, spam, and potato chips contains way too much salt. Normally my diet isn't that back, but I'd fallen into some old bad habits.
So I'm on diuretics and antibiotics for a bit. Before coming home we went to the grocery store and stocked up on fresh fruits, veggies, and no salt everything else. It's easy to heat up processed foods, which I'd been doing too much of lately. Hey, I had other stuff to do. Now my stuff to do is to get healthy, so I'm cooking skinless chicken breasts with lots of spices instead of salt. It's still yummy, just a lot more time consuming to prepare.
It was not the day I'd planned, but such is life. The doctor's visit in the morning was supposed to be 15 to 30 minutes. I didn't get out of the hospital until 4 p. m.. Then my lovely wife and I had a tussle at the pharmacy. They didn't get the complete order and it took lots of back and forth to get both antibiotics.
It was a pretty exciting day. Hopefully the new leg treatments will bear fruit, as they still hurt like a son of a gun. I don't think the wound clinic guy was quite on top of it. Maybe the trip to the ER will turn out to be a blessing in disguise, if the new leg treatments work out, that is.
I've a daughter and her family who live out in California. She's a couple hours from the fire, but the smoke has been devastating. Schools and businesses are closed due to bad air quality. The problem is widespread.
Of course, conditions are much worse where the fires are actually burning. We won't know for some time how terrible it truly is. The number of confirmed dead is bad and going up all the time. What worries me is the huge number of people who are unaccounted for. Most people have no idea how fast fire can travel.
As a former firefighter he whole situation stirs up strong feelings. I have a lot of empathy for those fire boots on the ground, and the people who've lost everything. The fires are in the news now. All too soon the world will move on and the people in California will still be dealing with the repercussions of the disaster.
First the good news. We finally sold the van. Actually, my lovely wife is the one who really sold it. I'd given up after dealing with too many idiots. Some people are not cut out for sales. My lovely wife took over. It was a Facebook ad that finally did it.
We didn't get anywhere near what we originally asked, but it was time to let it go. On the bright side, we got more than salvage rates, so that's good. My vehicle insurance is due at the end of the month and it'll be cheaper with the van off it.
Mainly, I get a much needed winter parking space back. I've had to park the car in a steep part of my summer driveway. It's my summer driveway as it's pretty tough to get out of it when there's snow or ice on the ground. There's just enough hill to make it nasty, plus there's a wall for cars to fall off of. It's happened.
As for my leg issues -they aren't getting much better. On the plus side, they aren't infected. However, they aren't healing because my legs have swelled up. Apparently, I'm retaining way too much water. Hopefully diuretics will do the job. The leg doctor happened to notice some other medical issues. He set me up at the hospital to be checked out. Well, there were lab tests and x-rays. I don't really want to get into exactly what's on.
In fact, I have more appointments on Monday to find out what's happening. Right now I'm not super worried, but it's one more thing to deal with.
We have good snow cover and this current storm will give us at least another six inches. I'm actually pretty relieved to have some early snow.
Why is that? Regular readers may remember all the fun I had with my water line from the well. In the end I went with plan B. The supply line is buried too shallow for our climate, but not it's also covered with two inch thick high density foam insulation panels. Having snow on top of unfrozen ground provides a lot of additional insulation.
Most people don't realize how good insulation snow is. Think about it though. What's insulation? Usually it's a material that traps air pockets. Snow has a lot of air trapped between the crystals.
There's a reason the people of the north lived in igloos. You would not think that being in a house of snow is all that warm. It's not T-shirt warm, but it's a huge improvement over outside conditions. When it's forty below with the wind blowing, being out of the wind in a 30 degree shelter is a big step up.
Some years ago a friend and myself went on a snowshoeing adventure. We decided to build an igloo to test it out. It was a fair amount of work, but it was comfortable. We did make one major mistake. The weather was pretty nasty out so we decided to cook breakfast in the igloo. Pro tip: don't fry bacon in an igloo. The camp stove put out enough heat to melt the roof causing water to drip into the hot grease. The cooking was quickly moved outside.
People tend to think of snow as a being a killer, but it can be put to good use.
I've got nothing for temperature that is. It's zero this morning. Yesterday was a tad warmer at eleven, but the forty mile an hour winds more than made up for it. I spent a fair amount of time yesterday digging out. We got about eight to ten inches of heavy wet snow the day before.
Another eight inches of snow is predicted to hit us in the next storm. Lovely fall we are having.
In other news, I've decided to go back to the doctor for a follow up. It's weird, the leg infection doesn't look as bad, but it hurts more. In fact, it hurts badly enough that it's really cutting into my sleep. As soon as the clinic opens I'm going to call and see when they can get to me.
The vast majority of the time I've been able to take care of my own medical issues. Sometimes you need the professionals. It's too bad our medical/industrial/insurance industry is so messed up. On one end we have plenty of people in need. On the other hand we have a lot of dedicated medical professionals wanting to help. It's the stuff in the middle that's a mess.
A good number of my friends are dealing with medical issues right now. I guess I'm just at that age. One of the guys has what's supposed to be good insurance. He went back to work after retirement just for the medical insurance. Now he needs a life saving operation and the insurance company is giving him a hard time. All the doctors agree he needs the operation and that it'll work. Crucial medical decisions are not made by doctors, but by insurance companies.
Anyway, enough of that. Must be the pain talking. Just annoyed that I've stuff to do and not well enough to get it all done. Hope everyone has a good day. I'll have a coffee, get moving, and my attitude will improve.
My leg infection is taking its own sweet time to clear up. If it doesn't show faster improvement in a couple days, the doctor will hear from me again. Right now they itch like crazy. Of course, they weren't bad all day long. It's only when I'm trying to sleep that they act up.
I've been pretty good about following doctor's orders, with one exception. He recommended I do more walking and I haven't been. In my defense when it's raining buckets at 37 degrees it's not nice walking weather. When the rain stopped my lovely wife and were in a hurry finish outside chores. To top it all off, we just received about a foot of snow.
To be fair there's still time for the wounds to heal within the time period the doctor expected. Two years ago, with a similar infection, they didn't seem to be healing. Then over the period of a couple days they cleared right up. Here's hoping.
Having no insurance, the cost is of no small concern too. So far I've received three out of five expected bills. My guess is that my current expensive is about $1100. As bad as that is, that's not much more than insurance would have cost me for one month, but with a $6000 deductible. Even worse, paying out of pocket, they give me a 40% discount. Our medical insurance system is messed up.
I've a credit card with no balance on it. The card is offering a 12 month no interest period. It might be a good idea to put some of my medical expenses on that card. That way some bills could be put off until after Christmas.
At any rate, I'm staying on top of this and will follow through until completely healed. Once the ibuprofen kicks in I'm going back to bed for more sleep.
So there's this family who've moved out to the country. They are living the dream. Unfortunately, they are somewhat underfunded and have no idea what they are doing.
When I say underfunded, I mean they don't have furniture. Now that might be romantic for a young couple starting out, but this is a large family of ten. Having basic things like beds might be nice.
They also are having difficulty with their well and septic. Their house has a well and septic system rated for four people, not ten. Not only that, they don't know that there are many things you don't flush down a septic system. In fact, they have no idea that a septic system is a living system with little creatures breaking down waste. When they started having problems, they flushed down gallons of bleach, thinking that would make things better. Turns out killing all those little hard working creatures only makes things worse.
I've no idea how they are going to deal with winter. They may not even own a snow shovel.
Dreams turn into nightmares.
Now I can truly understand wanting to live in the country, but you need some knowledge and skills. That's especially true if you can't just write checks to solve problems.
They may have been much better off moving to a town of about ten thousand people or so. Big city problems are avoided, but some basic services can be had. That family of ten would have benefited greatly with things like town water, sewer, and other services. Small town living can be a pretty decent compromise.
Home finances are a big deal. A couple really should have some idea how money is going to be managed before getting married. Money is one of the major things couples argue about. One of the things my lovely wife and I discovered soon after we met was our similar philosophical approach to money. Neither of us have ever been too focused on it. Money is not a big motivator in our lives. That's good in some ways but bad in others.
Someone has to make sure the bills are paid.
At first we tried to manage the fiances together. That only worked for a little while. At one point we ended up paying some bills twice and other bills not at all. That's when we figured out that one of us had to take the lead on that.
Over the decades of our marriage that's a job we've both done. Sometimes it made sense for me to do it. Other times my lovely wife took the lead. When I got injured at work, she handled the day to day financial business. Frankly, I was too messed up to do even that basic a task. Years later, I returned the favor when she was dealing with health issues.
Since then I've pretty much been stuck with the job. However, my lovely wife and I communicate about where the money is going. Should something happen to me, all the accounts and bills are written down in a notebook. That includes on-line logins. Should something happen to me, she should be able to sort things out. However, I probably should write down exactly how I do things -bill schedules, priorities, due dates, and that sort of thing.
Currently, we are dealing with more medical bills than normal. We'd been in the process of paying down debt, but those medical bills have set us back a bit. By this point in my life I'd planned on being debt free, but life happens. At some point you've got to figure out what's worth your time and energy and what to let go. It's whatever works for you. The decisions my lovely wife and I make are not decisions most other folks would make. The main thing is not have any secrets about money and to be working towards the same goals.
It was a weird storm last night. The temperature hovered around the freezing mark. Snowfall varied by micro climate We received about 2 inches of wet icy snow. Twenty miles north, they were buried. Ten miles to the west, they had just rain. It was a difficult one for the weather service to predict.
Much to my surprise utilities stayed up at my house while going down all around me. Usually we are the first to lose power, phone and Internet.
Great, while writing this blog, the Internet went down for about five minutes. Sometimes the universe laughs at you.
Anyway . . .
Still on the mend. While my leg infection is starting to look a lot better, it still hurts a fair bit. It's not too bad during the day when I have things to distract me. It's at night when it bothers me. Sleep gets interrupted a lot. About the only thing I can do then is to get up for a couple hours and take some ibuprofen. My schedule is pretty messed up.
The van still hasn't sold. Maybe I'm too honest to be a sales person. I'm getting sick and tired of dealing with stupid people. That being said, I'm pretty sure it'll be gone in the next week or so.
Looking forward to our next adventure, whatever that may be. It is a good feeling to have all the gear ready to go for some off-grid camping. We could be out of the house and on the road in short order. That thought makes me happy. Eventually we'll have another, larger, sailboat. You can't drive to the Bahamas.
We are getting a lovely mix of snow and rain. I've heard predictions of six inches, but with a caution that it all depends on the rain/snow ratio. Here in the mountains it might get nasty. Fortunately, I really don't have a pressing need to be anywhere.
Friday I was able to take care of some last minute outside work. Some things were brought under cover and I hauled in more firewood. The house batteries for my solar electric system are charged up. There's a pretty fair chance the grid will go down at some point. Even more likely will be the loss of Internet connection. For some reason that appears to be more fragile than the grid. It might be one of those days to sit next to the woodstove with a good book.
The nasty weather really makes me long for life on a sailboat somewhere in the Bahamas. That's a trip that keeps getting put off. My lovely wife and I are reduced to watching Youtube videos of other sailors. It's not the same.
Right now all we can do is to arrange our finances to make it all possible. The new medical bills coming in are a set back, but maybe not as bad as feared. Time will tell.
If you don't hear from me in a day or two, it's probably just my Internet going down so don't be concerned.
I went to a potluck dinner for local small business people. It's the first time in a while since I've felt well enough to go out and socialize. It was great to see people again. There was a pretty good turn out.
One of the guys, a new resident to the area, happened to notice that some of us were related. He asked how many of us were. It turned out that just under half of the people there were related to me in some way. That's life in a small town.
My family on my father's side live mostly in one town still, with a few in neighboring towns. That gives me deep roots in local community life.
On my mother's side, I'm about the only one left anywhere near the old home town. There's a strong grouping at the other end of the state, but the rest are scattered all over. My lovely wife's family is also scattered across the country. About the only family left in her home town are in the graveyard.
My lovely wife and I have three daughters. One is local. Another lives in a neighboring state. Our youngest lives clear across the country. All of them have passports and have traveled to different countries.
For me, it's the best of both worlds. I know what it's like to have roots in an area. I also know what it's like in other parts of the country and the world. I've my tribe of family and friends close to me, where we are around to support each other. Through the rest of my family, I know what it's like to be a citizen of the world. That's good too, as it expands my knowledge and influences my views.
There are different ways of dealing with people from other regions and cultures. You can fear them because they are not like your people, or you may find the differences interesting. My attitude has always been the second part. Don't knock it, that's how I ended up with a lovely wife from a different state with a different religion from my own. Our 40th anniversary is next month, so I must still find her interesting.
Roots are good. There is a strength there. Being exposed to the rest of the world is also good. Everyone on this blue marble in space is trying to find the best ways to live. Some do a better job of it than others, for various reasons. Why not adopt best life practices from those who are living a happier life? Personally, I think it's a blessing that the world is more connected and communication is easier.
I was out on the woods yesterday, helping a buddy retrieve a game camera. It wasn't that far out, but at least I was doing something. Since my ingrown toenail was fixed it's a lot less painful to walk. That's even with my legs still bandaged up. I was super careful not to bang them up on anything as the skin's pretty fragile right now.
Last winter we did a lot of camping. It's surprising how much walking you do in the course of a day -without even trying. Just the trips to the restroom and walking the dog is probably enough to stay in shape. Add in some nature trails and walks along the beach and it really adds up.
It's going to take a little more effort to get my walking in at home. The last doctor I saw recommended that I purchase a fitness tracker like a Fitbit. The brand name ones are expensive and there's no telling if it's going to work for me. However, I was willing to purchase a cheap knock off for a lot less money. There's always the opportunity to upgrade later if it's something that does the job.
Big fat guys like myself really need to get exercise to stay healthy. While exercise is good for taking off a few pounds, it's more important for me to be in better condition.
By the way the only critter his game camera caught was a squirrel. Guess we'll have to go set it up somewhere else. That's another hike in the woods, so it's all good.
So my lovely wife and I get to the polls and walk right in. I'm greeted by a worker who directs me to the second table as I'm already registered. Actually, we visit for a bit. He and I were firefighters together for 17 years, so it's not like we are strangers.
When we get to the table, it's his wife who's checking Id's. She's known my lovely wife and I for at least 30 years. However, thanks to new voter fraud laws, she has to check our Ids. Whatever. We get our ballots and step into our booths.
Our town uses paper ballots. After voting we drop them in a machine that scans the votes. That's fine with me, as the physical paper ballots still exist and can easily be hand counted. I'm a big fan of paper ballots. It doesn't take a genius to physically count real physical ballots. Maybe it makes the results a bit too late to make the evening news, but at least the count can be trusted.
On the way out my lovely wife makes a side trip to buy some cookies from school kids doing a fund raiser. I go and hang out with my former coworker for a bit. Afterwards we go home for coffee and cookies, our democratic duty done.
Now I realize your voting experience may vary. Living in a small town makes it a pretty laid back experience for me. That does not detract from the importance of the act. People fought and died so I could have the right to vote. The least I can do is show up and do my part.
For those of you who've been following my blogging about my leg issues, here's an update.
The new doctor seems to know his stuff. It was nice to hear that he's seen my problem a thousand times before and had a treatment plan. Long story short, I should be better in a week or two.
While I was there I got him to deal with a hugely painful ingrown toenail. That toenail problem has been limiting my ability to walk. Walking is one of the things I need to do more of to help my legs heal. I was hesitant to get it fixed. My mother had the same issue years ago. The doctors botched it up and she had painful issues with her feet for the rest of her life. I made my concerns clear to the doctor. He did a really good job. I'll soon be able to get back into hiking around.
Things are looking up. The treatments in the doctor's office have lessened the pain quite a bit.
Had I seen the exact same doctor in the wound clinic the exact same procedure would have cost at least $1000 more. That was according to the doctor. The hospital adds that on for using their facility. Had I insurance, that's what would have happened. The procedure would have actually cost me more due to deductibles. What a messed up system.
I am grateful that the lady at the wound clinic was able to figure out the cheaper alternative for me. There are good people doing their best in a broken system.
I was waiting for my leg to get better before hauling the sailboat out of the lake. Yes, it's early November and it was still in the water. Just goes to show that I'm not getting well fast enough. Not only that, my doctor didn't want me wading around in the lake with an open leg infection.
Friday my lovely wife prepped the boat. She took the sails down, cleaned out the scupper, and pumped the bilge. She also froze her legs doing it. That lake water was cold.
Saturday my daughter and her husband came to “help” load the boat on the trailer. Actually, they did 99% of the work. All I did was direct operations at the boat ramp. Never got my toes damp.
Afterwards we had a really nice late lunch. Before heading to the boat ramp I'd filled the oven of the woodstove with chicken and potatoes. It was really nice to come inside to a toasty warm kitchen and a nicely cooked meal.
We'd finished dinner and were enjoying our coffees. Suddenly, the clouds rolled in, the wind came up and it started to rain hard. Not long after we had a mix of snow and 60 mph gusts. I'm am really grateful for the help. Feels good to have the boat on the trailer and parked in my driveway.
Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. First a little background: I really hate dealing with doctors, but dealing with insurances and medical billing is even worse.
There is good news about my leg infection. It has not settled in my bones. Had it done so, it would have been a real bear to treat.
Okay, fine. Then I was referred to a wound clinic about 35 minutes away. No big deal. When you live in the sticks you expect to drive somewhere for services.
The person at the clinic had all my paperwork and asked a few medical questions. Then she mentioned that it said I was self-pay. Once that was confirmed my call was transferred to the billing department. She was not too happy to discover I had no insurance. Then it got even more interesting. My income is just a tad too high for their sliding scale payments. We talked some time but eventually she realized that not only did I not have insurance, I did not qualify for any state or Federal programs. In fact, even tax credits are useless to me as I don't pay income tax.
She told me the treatment was “expensive.” Well how expensive? I asked. Expensive she said. That's not exactly a number. She wouldn't even give me a ballpark figure. Then she said she'd call the clinic and get back to me.
Time goes by.
The clinic calls and offers a solution. The same doctor from the clinic has hours in another practice about an hour away from me. It's supposed to cost less that way. The only number I could get out of the person is that I need a $55 copay to get in the door. How much additional to that? Nobody could tell me. Oh well. Guess I drive over early Monday morning and find out about treatment and payments.
In the mean time, lab test bills have started coming in. Still waiting for the doctor's visit bill and the x-ray bill.
Good thing it's only money -money I don't have too much of, but if so it goes.
It's been pretty tough being less than 100% physically. It occurred to me that there's a lot of stuff around the house that I'm responsible for. A goodly number of jobs have been pushed into some ill defined future. My efforts have been concentrated on the things that must get done. Mostly, those are things that need doing before hard winter sets in. Here in the North Country, that could happen at any time.
Fortunately, I've family members who'll be helping with some last minute things. It's a big relief to me. They'll be able to clear up the last of the mission critical projects.
My doctor expressed concern that my leg infection has yet to clear. In fact, it's still pretty darn painful. On the bright side, my x-rays show that there's no infection in the bones. That's a huge relief as it's quite difficult to deal with such infections Right now I'm waiting to get into a wound clinic for further treatment.
Hopefully, they'll be able to set me to rights soon. There are a lot of house projects that, while not critical, should be done.
This past month was pretty expensive. To cut down on costs, we dipped into the food storage at the end of the month. That's one of the reasons we have food storage.
It's good to eat from stored food now and then. There's a big difference between thinking you know how it'll go and actually finding out by doing.
I discovered a few things. The big one was the lack of eggs. Eggs are great for breakfast, but really critical for a lot of cooking. Let's just say I was pretty disappointed at how my muffins fell apart. My next food test will be with dehydrated eggs. Powdered eggs used to be horrible. The last few times I tried them they were edible. That's saying a lot for someone who's gotten used to local eggs from the farmer down the road.
When looking for dehydrated eggs I discovered some powered butter. In the past I haven't even tried to store butter, making do with various oils and shortenings. Canned butter, depending on who canned it, is sometimes pretty decent. This powdered stuff, however, is new to me. Results will be posted in a future blog.
That being said, today I picked up two dozen cage free eggs and three pounds of fresh butter. It might be some time before the stored stuff gets tested.
In other news, I'm following up with some lingering health issues. Tomorrow it's off for an x-ray of a painful ankle. Later it will be a trip to the wound clinic to see why my leg infection is so slow to heal. At the end of the month there's yet another appointment for another minor yet annoying issue. I don't mind getting older, but I sure hate feeling older.
I live in an area of NH known as the Great North Woods. I'm in my dome-i-cile out in the county with my lovely wife and a varying number of family and friends
-part red neck, part hippie but all country. Experimenting and enjoying the adventure of life.