Sunday, December 30, 2018

40 Years

Today is the 40th wedding anniversary for my lovely wife and I. We were a couple of crazy 20 year old kids. Now we are a couple of crazy 60 year old adults.

We only knew each other only four months before getting married. Turns out that was plenty long enough. When you know, you know. We were a couple of idealistic dreamers and we still are.

Our kids have put together a gathering of friends and family. I'm going to take a day or two off to enjoy.


Saturday, December 29, 2018

Ham and Lima Beans

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.


Friday, December 28, 2018

Quick Shutdown Solution

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.


Thursday, December 27, 2018

Fun with housing

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.


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all my loyal readers. May everyone have a safe and happy holiday. I'm taking the day off.

Peace and Joy


Monday, December 24, 2018

Ice fishing and Christmas Eve

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.


Sunday, December 23, 2018

Everybody's fired

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.


Saturday, December 22, 2018

Twenty pound turkey for two

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.


Friday, December 21, 2018

Practical Skills

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.


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Living on the road

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.


Wednesday, December 19, 2018


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.


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Expensive Heating Season

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.


Monday, December 17, 2018

Roots or Chains?

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.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

There goes the neighborhood

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.

I have to break in a new neighbor in the spring.


Saturday, December 15, 2018

Two Doctors

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.


Friday, December 14, 2018

Next Vehicle?

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.


Thursday, December 13, 2018

European Protests

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.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Safe Area

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?


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

I need my comfort

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.

Things keep chugging along.


Monday, December 10, 2018

Mylar Thermal Blankets

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.


Sunday, December 9, 2018

Good life in a finite world

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.


Saturday, December 8, 2018

Pros and cons of the frozen north

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,


Friday, December 7, 2018

Trouble Brewing

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.


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Quick Medical Update

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.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Back to the clinic

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.


Monday, December 3, 2018

Replacing Preps

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.


Sunday, December 2, 2018

Okay, this is getting silly

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.

I know exactly how he felt.


Saturday, December 1, 2018

Accidents of Birth

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.