Sunday, December 4, 2022

Stealth Camper Van

There’s a lot of videos, blogs and articles about “stealth camper vans.” Seriously? Don’t even bother with stealth. It’s a waste of time. 

I could go into any Walmart parking lot and point to which vehicles were being lived it. My accuracy rate would be way up there. First of all, they are in the back of a Walmart parking lot. What the heck else would they be doing there if not for housing someone for the night? You see any van type vehicle in the regular overnight parking spots and odds are it’s someone’s home. 

If you see a van out on Federal land in a dispersed camping area -it’s occupied. You might as well put on some solar panels and other creature comforts. You aren’t fooling anybody but yourself. 

In my travels I’ve come across only two vehicles that had pretty good stealth. One was a big box truck. They could park in an industrial area near other work trucks and nobody would notice. I saw them in a county campground and they’d opened up hidden windows and a fold out staircase. The conversion was a work of art. When traveling there was no hint this was anything but your basic cube truck. 

Then there was a guy who had a “construction van.” It had a business name on the side and ladders on the roof. The guy made a habit of spending his nights parked near construction areas. His rig looked just like any of the other contractor vans out there. 

Of course, if I saw either of those vehicles parked on a Walmart back lot I’d be suspicious. 

Frankly, most “stealth van” builds aren’t worth it. Any security guard or cop with more than three months on the job gets a feel for who’s who. Stealth builds might fool a lot of people. What it won’t do is fool the very people who’ll knock on your door and tell you to move along.


Saturday, December 3, 2022

Climate Refugees

There’s a little store in the village down the road that sells a little of everything. You know the sort of place. They have everything from gas, to pizza, to hunting licenses. I had a 20 pound propane bottle in need of filling. They do that too. It’s much more economical to get a tank refilled then to do a tank swap. Not only that, the swap tanks are usually a bit on the light side and cost more too.

There was young man working there who’d I’d never seen before. Turns out it was the owner’s son. The guy used to live in Florida but his place was on the St. John’s River. Both hurricanes flooded him out and there’s nothing left. Now he’s here in the Great North Woods of New Hampshire. He’s probably safe from hurricanes for a bit. 

He’s not the first person to move up here after a hurricane. When Katrina wiped out New Orleans we got a bunch of new people. One guy said he moved up north as it was about as far away from the Gulf as he could get. 

We get some nasty weather, but I’ll take a blizzard over a hurricane any day. When southerners move north to avoid weather you know there’s a issue. 


Friday, December 2, 2022

Snow Squalls

Well that was interesting. I wandered out to my back lot to see what the firewood situation was like. We’ve been getting a lot of windy days and there’s plenty of trees on the ground. We also have a fair amount of standing dead wood. It’s all good and dry for the woodstove. 

The plan was to drop some of those dead trees, but it was too windy. It a minute it would go from sunny and calm to a snow squall. You don’t want to be in the middle of cutting down a tree when the wind picks up. I know that from my early years up here at the lake. 

I’d been dropping a lot of trees along the power line. It was going really well -until it wasn’t. My last tree was starting to fall in the correct direction. Then the wind came out of nowhere, lifted the tree up and sent it 180 degrees in the opposite direction. The tree collided with the power pole and snapped the top off. 

Then I had to make an embarrassing call to the power company. They sent a crew over. The first thing the guy said was, “Who’s the lumber Jack?”

“That would be me,” I sheepishly said. 

They fixed the pole and didn’t even charge me. They don’t give out any free power poles these days. One embarrassing encounter with the power company is enough, thank you very much.

With the conditions in mind I settled for dragging already downed limbs to the house. A man has to know his  limitations.


Thursday, December 1, 2022

Rail Strike?

Congress is busy trying to pass legislation to prevent a railroad workers strike. That might not necessarily prevent the strike. They would just make it an illegal strike. 

Frankly, this is all unnecessary. The railroads are making record profits. Over the years they’ve been shrinking their workforce. The workers have some very legitimate concerns. The smart thing would be to address those concerns. Instead the owners are leaning on their friends in Congress to force employees to keep working. Looks like President Biden will have to give up his “friend of the unions” claims. 

So how much of a big deal would a rail strike be? Very big indeed. There are three main ways goods are moved across the country. The most economical is by barge. That’s great for getting grain from the heartland down the Mississippi to the rest of the world. It’s not so good where there’s no water access. 

The next most economical is by rail. Most people don’t realize that the vast majority of bulk goods moves by rail. Rails, unlike canals, go just about everywhere. The nation would shut down without rail transport of goods. 

Trucks are the third major way goods are moved. It’s a lot more expensive than rail. Not only that, truck transport can only add on a limited amount of new capacity. 

Without rail we are looking at some serious shortages: food, fuel, chemicals, building materials, components, machinery, fertilizer -the list is endless. It would be a very good idea to be able to live off your preps for a while. Many things would no longer be available and the things that are will increase in price. That’s just supply and demand. 

Will they go on strike? I can’t say. However, if it was me I would not be put off by some law passed by Congress. Union leaders have a long history of being willing to go to jail. All union activity used to be illegal so that’s par for the course. Frankly, I’d support a wildcat strike as sometimes that’s what it takes. 

However, make sure you have your stuff squared away as it could get uncomfortable when the economy shuts down. 


Wednesday, November 30, 2022


Being out in the woods it’s not uncommon for my Internet connection to go down. That’s the case right now as I write this blog. Normally I wouldn’t be able to post under these conditions. However, within the last year a cell phone company installed a new tower that allows for a connection. 

To get this blog posted I poked around on the cell phone and figured out how to use it as a hostspot. 

I’m not one of those people who lives on their phone, but I like being able to communicate in an emergency. When the Internet goes down I also lose my landline phone as it’s voice over Internet. Until the new cell tower went it my only way to message was with a Garmin InReach satellite device. It’s great when there’s no cell signal at all. The downside is that it’s only good for short text messages. Still, it works from just about anywhere.

A good communication solution is short wave radio, but I’ve never taken the time to get into it. We have a bunch of hand held family band radios and a couple of CB radios. I also have a small hand crank/solar short wave receiver. That way I can at least get the news. 

Communication isn’t something to be taken for granted -especially when you live out in the woods.


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Feeling the lack

It’s only been a couple of weeks since I put the scooter up for the winter. I already feel the lack. It’s funny how I got used to going for a ride. Sometimes just a quick ride into town and back was all I needed to put a smile on my face. I’m even dreaming about riding motorcycles. That’s gotta be a sign. 

Winter might be a long one. On the flip side, I used to wait anxiously for a good snow pack. That’s back when I was doing a lot of snowmobile riding, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. One thing I’m not going to do again is to buy another snowmobile. They are pretty hard on gasoline and the price of even used machines is pretty high. Then there’s the issue the constant repairs. At least I still have a good assortment of snowshoes. 

This time of year has never been my favorite. It’s dark. There’s usually not enough snow to play in. The lakes aren’t frozen so ice fishing is out. I could probably spend more time hunting, but all my old hunting buddies aren’t around anymore. It’s not as fun alone. 

Anyway, before you know it Christmas will be here. 

Of course, one solution for the seasonal blahs was to head down to the West Coast of Florida for a bit. Unfortunately it’s not a good year for that as the area needs to recover. We have reasons to spend this winter in the frozen north so I’d better snap out of it. 


Sunday, November 27, 2022

More Supply Chain Disruptions

We’ve had a lot of upset in the supply chains. Expect more. China is going through a massive covid outbreak right now. Their lock down policies have thrown a monkey wrench in production. We still have a major war going on with all the disruptions in fuel, food, and raw materials that entails. 

Take a minute and do a quick mental inventory of what you have at your home right now. I want you to think of two categories. The first one is consumables. That’s stuff like food, fuel, and water. How are you set? Can you get by for a few days? Weeks? Months? Years?

The second category I want you to think of is critical parts, materials, and items. Do you have the materials and skills to fix things? Here’s a simple example: the handle on our toilet broke. We had a replacement and it only took a few minutes to fix. We were having an ice storm and going out for a new part would have actually been dangerous. If we didn’t have the replacement part there were a couple of ways I could have temporarily fixed the old part. 

At a bare minimum you should have replacement parts for things that regularly fail: faucet washers, fuses, light bulbs and so on. Think about anything that had to be replaced in the last year. Stock up on those things. Every household is a bit different and has different needs.

Brush up on your repair knowledge. Make sure you have the tools and materials need to fix things. Be prepared to make do with what you have. The key here is flexibility.

While there may be supply chain disruptions, it doesn’t mean there won’t be anything available. However, what you might have difficulty getting exactly what you want. That could involve eating unfamiliar foods to fixing things with the “wrong” parts. One time I needed a connector for a plumbing job and it wasn’t available. In the end I cobbled three different parts together to do the same job. It was a pain but it worked. It’s still working a decade later. 

You don’t have to panic but you might have to think outside the box.


Saturday, November 26, 2022

So Far, So Good

To save energy we’ve shut down the upper floors of our house and are only heating the downstairs. There’s insulation between the floors so heat loss is slowed. To close it off I built a door at the top of the stairs and plugged air vents with insulation. That’s worked out really well to keep the heat on the first floor.

We’ve had some single degree nights and the downstairs is still comfortable. The kitchen woodstove easily keeps things toasty. Upstairs the temperature has dropped into the 40s. Another thing I’ve noticed is the snow hasn’t melted off the roof at all. That’s another sign we aren’t losing a lot of heat. 

Should nobody be around to feed the woodstove there’s electric heat as backup. Electricity is an expensive way to heat, but it’s used sparingly. Our electric bill has actually gone down from the month before. We can also use heating oil if necessary. I’m not going to get a full tank as that stuff has gotten too expensive. Instead I’ll pick up a few jugs of off-road diesel. It’s actually cheaper than heating oil and that makes no sense to me. It’s essentially the same stuff.

It’s early in the heating season, but we’ve snow on the ground that hasn’t melted. It certainly looks and feels like winter. 


Friday, November 25, 2022

Black Friday

It’s a crazy shopping day -or so they say. I wouldn’t be able to testify to the fact as I won’t see it with my own eyes. I’m staying home. As far as I’m concerned the day after Thanksgiving is Leftover Day. Heck, I baked a loaf of fresh bread just for the turkey sandwiches. 

I suppose this is the start of the Christmas shopping season. It used to be a time of great stress for me. Fortunately I’ve lowered my expectations. Also, I’ve cut way back on what we buy for Christmas. Basically we’ll get a few things for the grand kids, something for the lovely wife, and that’s about it. 

I’m sick of people being called “consumers.” Locusts are consumers. Instead I’d rather be recognized as just another human being. There’s so much more to being human than consuming. People complain about the over commercialization of Christmas -then go shopping crazy. Let’s not do that. We can start by sitting out Black Friday.


Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! Remember, it’s a day to give thanks. Gratitude is underused and overlooked. Hope everyone has a good day. 

I’m doing the traditional turkey in the wood fired oven with all the fixings. Since our gathering was scaled down there will be a lot of leftovers, but nothing wrong with leftovers. 

Be well.


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Back to the moon

At the time this blog is being written NASA’s spacecraft Orion is orbiting the moon. Congratulations NASA. They’ve finally duplicated 1960’s exploits. Unlike the Apollo days the plan is to continue forward and actually establish a presence. They also hope to do it this decade. That would be different. 

I’m old enough to remember the moon landing. Kids in those days really thought we had a chance to someday work and live in space. You can imagine how disappointing the following decades turned out to be. 

The space shuttle was pretty cool, but it was never the “space truck” that was going to make space travel affordable. Too many compromises were made along the way. However, I am glad I was able to see one of the last shuttle flights before they shut down the program. It was an impressive thing to see and feel. 

This time around it actually looks like government/private business partnerships are paying off. That might actually be the special sauce that moves mankind off our big blue rock. The current NASA program is a throwback to the old ways of doing things. It will probably turn out to be a footnote in History. Even NASA will need lander from SpaceX to make things work. 

All in all, I’m glad we are going back -even if I’m too old to live the dream.


Monday, November 21, 2022

Hot Water

Over the years I’ve used a number of different methods for heating household water. Most people don’t give it much thought -until the water runs cold. Often hot water is heated by a furnace doing double duty. The furnace could be oil, propane or natural gas fired. Heating hot water is fairly efficient when also heating the house. During the warm months it’s less efficient as the furnace is only running to heat water. 

Another common method is the stand alone hot water tank. Usually they are in the 40 – 60 gallon range and are heated by electricity, gas, or oil. There are also tank less water heaters that heat water as you use it. As long as there’s fuel for the heater and water, it will make unlimited hot water. 

One of the things I did many years ago was to install one of the first tank less water heaters in my part of New Hampshire. It ran on propane. When it ran properly it was wonderful. Unfortunately it did not work well during bitterly cold sub zero temperatures. The local propane company had to install an electrically powered heater plate – cutting into its energy efficiency. The unit would also need diaphragms replaced due to freezing on a regular basis. When it finally gave up the ghost the local propane company refused to sell me another one. Instead they put in a regular tank type.

When that one died one summer we were really hard up for money. All I could afford was a cheap 2.5 gallon, 120 volt water heater. It’s the type of heater often installed in a stand alone bathroom where water is only needed for the sink. I was running my whole house on it. It’s just enough water for hand washing, doing dishes, and for very quick Navy style showers. 

It certainly wasn’t enough for a bath. To produce more hot water I built a batch solar hot water heater out of salvaged junk. The solar heater fed into the small electric. Between the solar heater and the small electric we got through the summer. It was cheap to run, but a thrown together batch heater would not survive the cold weather. 

By the time that happened I’d scraped up enough money to buy a 40 gallon electric tank. However I didn’t replace the little tank. It did most of the work on a day by day basis. I rigged up a switch that would turn on the big tank when I wanted a lot of hot water. Now the water heater used 240 volts and switch used 120. The 120 volt switch would trip a 240 volt relay salvaged from a pottery kiln. The odd thing was that the relay made a weird low humming sound the whole time it was engaged. It helped remind me not to leave the switch on all the time so that worked out. 

Right now I’ve got a 40 gallon electric tank that can be preheated from a coil on the back of the woodstove. 

Over the years it’s been a lot of fun and games experimenting with different water heating options. Heating water is a big energy draw so it’s worth looking into ways to do it for less.


Sunday, November 20, 2022

So Much for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s not overly commercialized. Unlike Christmas expectations are low. Be grateful. Eat good food. It’s a fine holiday. 

This year my lovely wife and I were looking forward to Thanksgiving at my daughter’s in Vermont. It’s been a few years since we’ve been able to gather for the holiday. Unlike some families we really enjoy getting together. 

Then I received a call from my daughter. Her husband and her daughter have both tested positive for covid. They are sick, but not go to the hospital sick. Still, it’s enough to shut down the gathering. Oh well. Looks like another intimate Thanksgiving in New Hampshire. 


Saturday, November 19, 2022

Crypto Currency Collapse

Well that didn’t take long. FTX, the crypto currency exchange went from a “worth” of billions of dollars to practically zero in a matter of days. Just to make things interesting other crypto exchanges were invested in FTX. In fact, it seems like the whole industry is invested in each other. More will go down.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m inventing Sixbears Coin. I’ll be issuing 16 coins. Each one will be “worth” a billion dollars. Now my company is worth 16 billion dollars. What can you do with a Sixbears Coin? You can try and sell it to some greater fool for 2 billion dollars. 

The big difference between Sixbears Coin and FTX is that FTX got real people to invest real money into the company. Those FTX coins couldn’t actually be used for anything like keeping the lights on or putting coffee in the break room. Investors’ money did those mundane chores. 

It kinda looks like Monopoly money. If it was just a board game there wouldn’t be a problem. The problem is that unlike a $10 board game. FTX cost investors some serious real money. That real money going down a rabbit hole has real world implications. There’s even some whispers that this is a black swan event could take down world markets in general. 

Won’t that be interesting?

What always amazes me is that real people with serious money buy into these things. Then again, it look like Elon Musk just spent billions of dollars on Twitter and is quickly killing it. Just because you are rich doesn’t mean you  can’t make some amazing mistakes. 


Friday, November 18, 2022

Why No YouTube?

People have wondered why I don’t have a YouTube channel, or even Instagram, Tic-Toc or any of the other platforms. Heck, I’m not even on Facebook. 

There is money to be made. Even if the channel doesn’t take off the creator usually isn’t out a lot of money. There’s a fairly low bar to entry. There are a lot of people who have no other source of income and do just fine. Some are even getting rich.

I have a few reasons not to. The first is the cost in time. While the monetary costs of entry are low, the time costs can be quite high. It can take days to shoot and edit a good 20 minute episode. When having adventures I can barely be bothered to snap a few photos -never mind shoot video. It’s all a matter of being in the moment. Life is better when not viewed through a lense.

A big reason is keeping most of my life to myself. Feeding the media beast can become an all encompassing thing. A person’s whole life becomes the business. It’s like living in “The Truman Show.” At some point nothing is really real. 

Then there comes a point where people don’t do things for the experience but for the footage. Your life isn’t your life but a polished produced life. 

So why do I blog at all? I think I have a few good things to share now and then. I’m certainly not doing it for the money. Call it a sense of civic duty combined with desire to build community. 

I’m not against anyone for going the public creator route, but one should be away of the hidden costs.


Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Silly Season

The silly season starts early this time around. Trump announced his candidacy for President. Anyone else remember when we actually got a break between elections? 

So  . .  . how’s 2028 looking for everyone?

Anyway . .  I’m not going to play the game until later. 

Too much politics too early in the season is bad for digestion. 

Okay, maybe I’m going to play a little. Anyone else find Trump’s announcement boring? Is that why even Fox News cut away before the end. 


Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Heating off-grid

We are about to be hit with a mix of snow, ice and freezing rain. Those are perfect conditions for the grid to go down. Currently the home battery bank is being topped off from the grid -while I still have it.   The yard has been picked up so nothing is lost under a big white blanket. You never know if this is the snow storm that will cover the ground until spring. 

A nice pile of fiber blocks has been stacked next to the woodstove. It’s much easier to haul them in on a dolly than a toboggan. We should be in pretty good shape. Our woodstove is a cookstove type so cooking on it is a dream. The oven is always hot and that’s handy for cooking and baking. 

Heating with a woodstove is a lot more work. However, burning fiber blocks takes a far bit of work out of the equation. Another bonus to the blocks is that the chimney doesn’t have to be cleaned as often. However, nothing beats the convenience of a oil or gas heat. 

While I have a oil furnace it’s currently too expensive to use. Last time I checked heating oil was over six dollars/gallon. It’s not just the cost of oil either. Most people don’t realize it, but most oil or gas furnaces use a fair amount of electricity. The gun that ignites the fuel uses electricity. Pumps or blowers also draw from the grid. It adds up.

Perhaps one of the more frustrating things is to have plenty of oil but still can’t heat your house due to having no electricity. There are some gas furnaces that can run without electricity, but they tend to be smaller. Even those often have an electric fan to help circulation. While not absolutely necessary the fan certainly helps. 

I was given a propane direct vent heater but it’s still sitting on my porch. I’m not sure if it’s worth installing. Currently the only thing running on propane in my house is the dryer. I don’t even have a delivery service of propane anymore. The old one I used to deal with went out of business. All I’m using is 20lb tanks like you’d use in a barbecue grill. Something bigger would be needed for heat. 

We’ll see how this storm treats us. If we are out of contact for a bit it’s probably just because the wires are down. No worries. We don’t have to go anywhere and can hunker down.


Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Summer to Winter

Well that was quick. Friday evening it was 68 degrees. Monday I woke up scattered snow in the ground. It never warmed up enough to melt. Would it be too much to ask for another hurricane to push more warm weather north to New Hampshire? Yeah, it probably would be, and pretty selfish too.

However, it doesn’t look like that’s in the cards. We are expecting snow Wednesday – Friday. 

With that in mind I finally pulled the plug on my scooter riding season. Monday afternoon I assembled a small shelter for the scooter. It took much longer than it should due to cold temperatures and high winds. It took a lot of trips inside for fresh coffee and to warm fingers. Eventually the job was done and the scooter was inside. Gasoline has been stabilized. The battery still needs to be pulled and put on a battery minder for the winter. Outside of that it should be good until spring. 

This is not the latest I’ve ridden on two wheels. One year I communed on a KZ-900 motorcycle until the middle of December. It was about a 60 mile drive. The motorcycle was my only vehicle so there wasn’t much choice. I’m lucky to be alive. Hitting a patch of ice at 60 mph in a corner is never fun. 

It could be worse. One year I pulled the boat out of the lake in the middle of snowstorm. That involved wading into the lake to sort out a problem with the trailer. Compared to that putting the scooter away was a piece of cake.


Monday, November 14, 2022

Basement reclamation

Ever so slowly I’ve been reclaiming my basement. One big thing was dealing with the last of my veggie oil storage. I ran diesels on waste veggie oil for years and kept a good supply in my basement. Most of the jugs were stored on a huge rack built of 2X6s and plywood. Over the years a few jugs leaked and the rack got really saturated with veggie oil. 

Once the jugs were gone I cut up the rack. We had one heck of a bonfire in our fire pit. Good thing I picked a day with low fire danger. The first piece burned hot enough that I kept backing up my chair until it was 25 feet away. After that I cut the rest of the pieces a lot smaller. I knew it was going to burn hot, but didn’t realize exactly how hot. Oh well, no harm, no foul. 

With the rack out of the way it’s now much easier to install more insulation in the basement. Insulation is cheaper than heating fuel right now. Last year spray foam did wonders for air leaks and I’m going to pick up a few more cans of the stuff. 

One of the things I discovered was a broken outlet. Something heavy must have smashed it. The live electrical contacts were hanging out there in the open. It’s a wonder nothing shorted out. Glad that’s fixed. 

Over the coming weeks there will be an extra contractor bag of junk on trash day. Once all the junk is gone I’ll finally be able to organize my tools and materials. It’s one of those mundane things that have to be done now and then. 


Sunday, November 13, 2022

Long Range Planning

Right now long range planning looks like about six months -at best. There are so many things in play that anything could happen. That’s my take on it anyway. 

Isn’t that exciting?

With that in mind about all we can do is to make sure we are flexible. That can look like very different to different people. 

We are told that you have to be debt free and have money in the bank to have options. That could not be further from the truth. Sure, those things are nice and can be useful. However, they can be a prison too. If the quest for those things keep you in a job that’s slowly killing you, what’s the point? You can be poor with a terrible credit rating and still be extremely happy. Your creditors may be sad, but that’s on them. Everyone is responsible for their own happiness. 

So my long range planning currently consists of fuel for the woodstove and a pile of potatoes and squash. Trust me, there are worse plans out there. How’s that crypto currency working out for everybody? Real estate investments? Beanie Babies?

From person experience I know everything can go from fantastic to horrible in a single moment. Once someone survives that they shouldn’t really worry about anything ever again. The Buddha is right. There is power in letting go of your attachments.

I’m not saying to only eat drink and be merry. Then again, there are worse things than being a fat happy drunk. Yeltsin was more fun that Putin. At least he didn’t start a major land war. 

Anyway, people have ideas for the things they need for life to be okay. What’s neglected is taking care of your head space. If your thoughts are giving your ulcers maybe it’s time to change your thinking. 


Saturday, November 12, 2022

Guess we still have a Democracy

Okay, okay, it’s actually a representative republic by design but whatever. In reality it’s more of a Corporate Kleptocracy but we cope. 

Putting aside semantic details for a bit let’s just take a big deep breath and let it out. All in all the election went off without too many shenanigans. There were incidents here and there but nothing too crazy. 

Well, there was that guy at the local polling place who was calling everyone Communists. He got pretty worked up but then starred recognizing people. Then he was all, “but you’re okay, and you’re okay and you too. You are all good people.” Then he sorta wandered off. 

Kinda weird, but pretty harmless in the big scheme of things. 

Best I can tell people didn’t so much vote for Democrats as against crazy. Republican Governor Sununu summed it up pretty well. He figured the voters thought: policy we can fix later. Crazy we can fix now. He did very well in his reelection. In fact, main stream Republicans did very well -there just weren’t enough of them. 

Frankly, I really hope for politics to become boring again. Those guys should quietly do their jobs and keep from flying off the rails. 

One can dream. 

New Hampshire remains a purple state, neither red nor blue. While Sununu did really well his success had very short coat tails indeed. The Democrats are going back to Washington. Surprisingly Democrats did very well lower down on the ballot in more local races. Pretty unusual for a mid-term election. 

Actually, keep an eye on Sununu. He could upset the political calculations in 2024. The press kept asking him about a presidential bid. The guy didn’t say no. He can draw in Independents. Sununu would do very in New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary. That would definitely give him some recognition. 

Anyway, enough politics for now. Glad it’s over without the cities catching fire. 


Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Storm Safe

It looks like an interesting week as far as weather is concerned here in the US. Florida will take a hit from either a Subtropical storm or maybe even a low end hurricane. Expect the usual mix of rain, flooding, storm surge and tornadoes. 

It’s not just Florida. That storm could affect a good portion of the east coast. Other parts of the country are looking at snow and other harsh weather. 

That’s in the short term: the next few days.

New England is looking at an interesting winter. Heating oil stocks are low and expensive. Natural gas shortages may cause heating and electricity issues. I’m personally in pretty good shape due to having a good woodstove and solar electric. Most of my neighbors have wood backup, but that’s because we live out in the woods. If you don’t have that option better get some warm quilts, clothes, and sleeping bags. 

Releasing oil from national stockpiles or “drill baby drill” won’t help. Refinery capacity is maxed out. There are no incentives for oil companies to increase output. They make more money when there are shortages. Right now oil companies are trying to extract as much profit as they can. Fossil fuels will eventually run out -or get to expensive and energy intensive to recover. They are milking profits from a dying industry. It won’t go overnight, but you don’t have to be Nostradamus to see where it’s heading. 

To sum up: in the short term we get some interesting weather. Mid term -this winter, much will depend on the harshness or mildness of the weather. Long term, it’s renewables or nothing. 


Monday, November 7, 2022

Night Owl

The return to standard time is always hard. My lovely wife and I are not morning people. Having more light early in the day is of little use to us. On the other hand we really miss that hour in the afternoon. November is a gray enough month as it is. It’s the time of year when I up my vitamin D intake as I’m not going to get it from the sun. 

Growing up it was always a struggle to get out of bed. Jobs with early start times weren’t that great either. Night shifts were my favorite. Problems arose when having to deal with the rest of the world. Most businesses and offices have day hours. How rude of them. I know it’s different in a lot of places, but we can’t get breakfast 24 hours a day around here. 

Left to our own devices our bed time tends to drift to somewhere between 2 or 4 a. m..  My guess is that our night schedule is partly due to modern technology. When we are camping or living on a sailboat our schedule slowly adjusts to a daylight routine. 

That’s not to say we become morning people. Maybe it’s just too hard to sleep in when there’s so much early morning activity. We might be up, but we aren’t at our best. If it wasn’t for coffee I don’t know what we’d do. 

As much as I’m not a fan of losing an hour of light, I wish they’d stop changing the clocks. Pick daylight savings time or standard time and stick with it. 


Sunday, November 6, 2022

Unplanned detour

Saturday’s weather was unusually warm. I can’t believe I haven’t put the scooter for the winter yet, but with these nice days it might be a while yet. 

I was having a pleasant ride through the mountains. The plan was to make a big loop and come back home well before dark. I was about 35 minutes from home only to find that the road was blocked for construction. I was forced to backtrack about 70 miles.

There’s wasn’t enough gas in the tank to get me back to civilization. It’s a good thing I carry an extra gallon in the top box. There was no cell connection. Like an idiot I left my Garmin inreach satelite device at home. 

By the time I pulled into my driveway it was dark and a storm was on my heels. Good fun.


Saturday, November 5, 2022

The Stuff We Worry About

More often than not we worry about the wrong stuff. We can be all caught up in our little world, worrying about one issue or another. 

Then some other stuff happens out of the blue and all those other problems are forgotten. Take some poor Ukrainian worrying about normal stuff. Maybe he can’t figure out why his washing machine isn’t draining right. Perhaps his car is making a funny noise. Then thousands of Russian troops come pouring across the border. He’s not going to be spending his time looking for the washing machine warranty papers.

Take all those people who got hit by Hurricane Ian. They had normal issues like everyone else. Maybe the boss at work was on their case. The noisy neighbor was bugging them about the long grass on their lawn. A massive hurricane and storm surge drives all that from one’s mind.

People could be all worked up about anything, but a massive earthquake will drive those worries away. Nothing like life threatening terror to refocus the mind.

So think about all that crap you are losing sleep over. Would any of it matter much if a major disaster suddenly hit where you live? It’s good to keep things in perspective.

A buddy of mine and myself have a saying. Things could be going wrong but we say, “At least no one is shooting at us.” 

Now don’t you feel silly for getting ulcers over day to day stuff? 


Friday, November 4, 2022

Old School Solar Electric

Almost 30 years ago I installed solar electric at my house. The original solar panels are still working just fine and putting out decent power. Another original component is the Trace 24 DC  to 120 AC inverter. The charger function stopped working a couple years ago. All I did was wire up a 24 volt stand alone charger on a switch. That allows me to top off the batteries from the grid. The inverter part still works just fine. Considering one of the items it runs is a ½ horse submersible well pump that’s saying something. There’s a significant power demand when the pump comes on. 

The charge controller was still working but I changed it out for a much more efficient Outback controller. About the same time more solar panels were added. 

I’m using 6 volt golf cart batteries and get about 10 years out of them. About the only maintenance I do on the whole system is to occasionally top off the batteries with distilled water. There’s something to be said for a technology that just works. 

Most of the new systems people are installing are grid tied. That eliminates the whole battery bank issue. Of course, if you are off-grid you definitely need batteries. The problem with the grid tied is that when the grid goes down those solar panels aren’t doing you any good. Some people spend a bit more money and also install some battery backup for those emergencies. 

Since local grid power just took an almost 50% price increase I’m seriously thinking about more solar upgrades. I’m not sure if I’m going to expand my old stuff or add another complete stand alone system. Currently there’s a small system powering my boat shed next to the lake. It was easier to put in a separate system rather than maintain the 350 feet of power lines strung through the trees.  

Solar was one of the best investments I’ve ever made. When times got tight for a while it was a comfort to know I had power that could not be cut off by some heartless corporation. 


Thursday, November 3, 2022

What the GOP expects

It’s come out that the GOP leadership expects Trump to be charged for his crimes sometime after the mid-term elections. Where the Republicans came up with that I’m not really sure. Garland is holding his cards close to the vest. It’s his actions that actually matter.

Only the fact that the Justice department is hesitant to charge a former president has kept him out of jail. You or I would be in prison right now. Those are the facts. You can like them or hate them -or totally disbelieve them. Still doesn’t change the facts. 

So what happens after that? I’d like to think that everything would work out in the court system. Apparently there are plenty of poor and middle class people willing to pay a billionaire’s legal bills so that’s not an issue. He will be well represented. Currently his legal defense looks nothing like his political statements. Don’t confuse the two. What he claims in public and his defense in court are totally different. 

If all you’ve been doing is listening to his statements you are going to be pretty shocked with the legal process. That’s on you. What you do with that information will make all the difference. Don’t be like that bozo that attacked the FBI and died in a field. 

Some politicians, political pundits, and propagandists predict violence when Trump is charged. That’s probably overblown. If it isn’t then you can refer to the January 6 trials to see how that sort of thing shakes out. Lots of jail time for the little guys. 

One big question is why the GOP is making these predictions? They must feel that Trump is no longer useful. There is no loyalty in either direction so that’s not a surprise. To people at that level the little guys are fodder units in their political wars. Don't’ make yourself a casualty. 


Wednesday, November 2, 2022

I was wrong about bug out boats

I used to think that a sailboat was a pretty good bug out vehicle. Sailboats have a lot going for them. The big one is that they don’t rely on fossil fuels to get around. Theoretically a decent sailboat can go around the world using just the wind. In reality most will use at least some gasoline or diesel. However,   electric propulsion has come a long way. 

Sailboats are pretty self contained. Almost all of them have solar and/or wind generators. Many can produce their own fresh water from sea water. In a way they are really excellent off grid houses. Sailors generally like to keep their boats well provisioned. Some can go weeks or even months without resupply. Line fishing and spear fishing often stretched those provisions even further. 

So what’s not to like? 

During the lock down phase of the pandemic live aboard sailors had a hard time. It was especially bad if they were in a foreign country. Some countries just forced boats to leave without even getting a chance to provision. There were people forced to make long dangerous journeys with few provisions and little fuel. 

Many countries shut their borders completely. The few countries that did allow foreign boats could make any rules and charge whatever the market would bear. In the United States it was even difficult for domestic boats. For a while all the marinas were shut down. It was a stressful time. 

Once in a while real world events reveal the holes in what looks like a good idea on paper.

There are still good reasons to bug out by boat, but that’s a case by case basis. It certainly helps if you have a capable, well provisioned craft and a place to go. 


Tuesday, November 1, 2022

55 miles and 20 feet

Day are getting shorter. There’s a pretty narrow window between warm enough and darkness. Sure, I could get up early and deal with the sub-freezing temps. On the other hand I could wait for it to warm up into the 60s. Guess what I’ve been doing? 

While it was still chilly I was dealing with some end of the month business on the computer. One of the things I did was order a couple more pallets of fiber blocks for the woodstove. The price hasn’t gone up and they are still in stock. No idea how long that happy situation will last. There’s a certain comfort in knowing where you winter heat is coming from. 

The nice thing about a woodstove is that it doesn’t need the grid to function. My woodstove is a modern interpenetration of a wood kitchen stove. The big difference from the older stoves is a bigger airtight firebox. Not only does it provide heat it’s great for cooking and baking. 

To make room for the pallets the scooter had to be moved about 20 feet. I did that -after taking a 55 mile side trip. Being able to tool around on two wheels this late in the season is a bonus. It was a perfect day to meander around on the 35 mph back roads. Some were paved. Others were dirt. Eventually the sun started to go down and the temperature was going down with it. It was time to park the scoot. 

There’s always tomorrow.


Monday, October 31, 2022

Reflections on Sailboat Shopping

My lovely wife and I were reminiscing about the times we went shopping for sailboats. A few of our excursions stand out. 

She brought up the time we looked at a bilge keel Westerly sailboat. They are very popular in England. When the tide goes out they can sit level on their two keels without tipping over. That’s super handy in places with high tides. 

On paper the boat looked like a good fit for us. It was a smaller Westerly that sat on a trailer. When we got there the boat didn’t exactly match the photo. It had been sitting in the guy’s yard a long time. There was two feet of water in the boat. We felt bad for the old guy and helped him pump the boat out. No way were we going to buy a boat that neglected. 

Then there was the issue of the trailer. It looked pretty sketchy. The guy eventually admitted he had a crane at the marina take the boat on and off the trailer for him. No way could it be launched at a ramp. 

That reminded us of another trailer sailer we looked at. It was an Oday 22 in excellent condition. Everything ran perfectly. The sails were almost new. Once again, the problem was the trailer. It was a weird beast of a trailer constructed mostly of heavy wooden beams. On the phone the owner said he used the trailer every year. Only when we got there did the guy admit that he only lived a half mile from the marina and never went over 15 mph. Here too,  a crane was used to load and unload the boat. 

Living in the mountains of New Hampshire we don’t have a lot of sailboats in our area so we like to check out any that come for sale close to home. One the guy was willing to practically give a boat to us. The  catch? It was in a field surrounded by huge poisonous hogweed plants. We weren’t going to go anywhere near it. Another boat had a seriously bent mast. The same boat had been rewired with all the junctions meeting deep in the bilge -where all the water settles. Hard pass. 

A Catalina on Craigslist looked extremely well equipped for the price. Once we got there we could see that all the equipment was actually there. The problem was that everything was worn out and on its last legs. 

We also would occasionally check out boats too big to be hauled to boat ramps. At one time we entertained keeping a boat in Florida. That way we wouldn’t have to tow anything all the way from New Hampshire. One Peterson we looked at appeared to be a jewel. It was clean and looked in excellent shape. A known tiller issue had already been fixed. The deal breaker? When we lifted the floor boards we saw the keel bolts were piles of rust. They didn’t even look like bolts. No sense buying a boat that has a keel about to fall off. 

We still get tempted to buy bigger boats, but right now we are sticking with our little Oday 19. 


Sunday, October 30, 2022

Back to Canada?

Looks like I’ll be able to use my passport again without much hassle. Canada dropped the covid requirements as of October first. For a while they had a special phone app to enter the country. That’s been dropped too. All I’m going to need is my passport.

Well, that and a new Canadian insurance card. To legally drive in Canada they require  a “Canada Non-Resident Inter Province Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card.” They are available from your insurance company. 

I live very close to Canada. Not being able to just casually cross the border has been annoying. Normally I like to visit lat summer or early fall. It’s a bit late for me now. However, I’ve been invited to a friend’s place in Newfoundland. That would be an interesting trip. 

Pre-covid my lovely wife and I were looking at an adventure in the Maritimes. Maybe we’ll finally get to do it next summer. Some of ancestors came from there and it’d be nice to see the area. 

Hopefully the borders will still be open come July. 

What I really miss is the days when a passport wasn’t required to cross into Canada. A driver’s license and birth certificate did the job. More often than not they wouldn’t even ask to see them. Those were the days.


Saturday, October 29, 2022

What a bargain

The United States has sent the equivalent of 3.5% of it’s defense budget to Ukraine. 

So what did we get for our money? We got to support a democracy against an invading imperialist country. That’s worthwhile all in itself. Even better, the Ukrainians are breaking the Bear. They are winning. 

We used to think of Russia as a near peer power. Now we know they are a near to near peer power. They aren’t a strong second, they might not even be the world’s third most powerful military. Actually, Japan is probably stronger right now. 

The best thing Russia can do is to get out of Ukraine and make peace as soon as possible. Then Russia has to figure out how to get its young people to come back. It’s demographics were already pretty bad with a small youth population. It’s pretty hard to run an economy without working age people. 

Russia had one strength: oil and gas exports. It’s quickly losing those markets and they won’t return. Europe lucked out with a mild fall. They were able to top off their natural gas storage and line up alternatives. With that sorted out world natural gas prices are coming down. Russia also lost foreign investment and technological know how. Western companies are gone and won’t be coming back in the near future. Russia’s major export, fossil fuels, are in trouble. 

Another big export for Russia was arms. Orders for their weapons are being canceled right and left. Who wants to invest in weapons that are being beaten by the west’s second string systems? Imagine if NATO air power had come onto the battle field? Ukraine is beating Russia with hardly any air power of its own. 

So . . . 3.5% of the US defense budget. No US troops in combat. The end of the Russian empire. 

One more head’s up. Russia better watch out for China. You may have noticed that China has been pretty distant from their “good friend” Russia. Wonder why? Don’t be surprised if China decides to carve off a chunk of Russia. China’s domestic issues are bad right now. Their economy is in trouble and people are restless. A war might be just the distraction needed. 

In the past China may have been tempted to attack Taiwan. The Ukrainian example demonstrates that might not be such a good idea. Much of China’s weapon systems are knock off copies of Russian equipment. Taiwan’s stuff is western. There’s also little issue of US support for Taiwan. Of course, the fact you just can’t drive tanks across the water is another big problem. None of these problems are an issue if China decides to go against Russia. They’ll probably wait until Russia is even weaker than it is now. 

Interesting times.


Friday, October 28, 2022

Are Nomad Days Over?

RV sales took a huge jump during the pandemic. Prices of RVs went through the roof. Not only was demand going up, supply chain issues and lock downs made it tough to build them. A lot of RVs were built with unskilled labor using substandard materials. One would be wise to check when a RV was built when shopping for a used one.

Prices are coming down. It will take a while for the real market values to stabilize. Most new RVs are financed and banks are in no hurry to lose money on them. However, eventually they’ll have no choice. Banks can only hold onto repossessed property for so long. The used market has had some serious drops as people get hard up for funds. Prices will drop more. 

Even if the price is right, should people buy into the lifestyle? While the RVs might be a better deal, the cost of camping in general has gone up. Mom and pop campgrounds have been bought out by large corporations. Even though there are fewer campers, profits for those companies have gone up. That’s mostly due the price of camping sites going up. 

There was a nice little campground in the Keys we really liked. They were bought out. Campsite sizes were cut in half to add more sites and the price of a site tripled. The new owners also added a lot of new restrictive rules and were no longer dog friendly. Let’s just say we’ll never stay there again.

There are also fewer places to camp for free. Fewer Walmarts allow overnight parking. Free Federal dispersed camping has been banned in a number of places. Sadly, that’s the fault of campers who had no respect for the land. Vegetation was destroyed. Trash and even human waste was left behind. Nasty. 

Fuel prices have taken their toll. While gas is a bit more expensive, diesel prices are outrageous. Motor homes and tow vehicles get poor fuel mileage. People are traveling less and staying in one place longer to save fuel. 

Now security is a growing problem. People are more worried about personal safety. As times get tough people are more likely to get violent. Theft, always an issue, is getting worse. 

There are ways to keep costs under control. Instead of big RVs or giant 5th wheels with big tow vehicles people have downsized. Smaller towed trailers and vans are more popular. That last time I went camping we used a tent and an economy car. There are good state and Federal campgrounds that are still reasonably priced. 

If my lovely wife and I hit the road we’ll use the tent and car again. Right now we are thinking of maybe traveling late winter or early spring. By then we should have a better idea of conditions on the ground. With the current conditions we are happy that we never became full time nomads. It’s nice to have a home base. 


Thursday, October 27, 2022

Unusually warm

We’ve had some unusually warm days. On Tuesday it got to 75 degrees. That’s pretty much unheard of for late October in northern New Hampshire. It’s more common to have snow on the ground by now. 

As weird as it is, that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying it. I thought the motor scooter would be in storage by now. As it is I’ve had some of my best riding during the fall. Go figure. 

It’s also given me time to get some last minute outdoor projects done. One guy was telling me he’s never prepared in time for winter, but this year he actually is. 

The real bonus has been on the home heating front. It’s still been cold enough at night to need heat, but those warm days make a big difference. Oil companies have record profits right now. They also have record high prices. Coincidence? I think not. If the warm weather hurts their profit margin it won’t break my heart. 

Of course, I could be buried under feet of snow in a few weeks. In the mean time I’m making the most of it while it’s mild.


Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Without a gasoline chainsaw

I’ve been dealing with lung damage for a long time now. Dirty two stroke engines can send me into serious coughing fits. The coughing can be so bad I pass out. That’s not something you want to have happen with a running chainsaw in your hands. 

In spite of that, over the years, I’ve gathered a lot of my own firewood. Fortunately a lot of wood can be gathered within walking distance of the house. I drag whole trees to the house where they are cut up with a corded electric chainsaw. Usually my 120 volt chain saws are ordered special so I can get more powerful ones than they normally sell in stores. 

For a few years I had a F250 pickup truck with a 7.3 diesel that ran on waste veggie oil. I wired up a huge inverted to run my 120 volt saw. The Forest Service sells permits for dead and down wood. There’s National Forest land nearby with a lot of dirt roads. With 100 foot cord it wasn’t too hard to quickly fill up the truck with wood. If the trees were further than my cord was long it wasn’t worth dragging them out anyway. 

I’ve never been one to trust the availability of petroleum products. Maybe it was due to coming of age during the Arab Oil Boycotts. Sometimes it’s good to have an old school backup. Mine is a 3.5 foot German crosscut saw. If you have to go with manual power, don’t scrimp on cheap saw. Make sure you know how to sharpen and maintain it too. 

In addition to the hand saw there’s a new Toro 60 volt battery chainsaw. That saw does a pretty good job. If the grid goes down it can also be charged on my household solar electric. 

One nice thing about gasoline alternatives. They are much quieter. That can be important during interesting times. 


Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Power Grid Heads Up

I came into a disturbing bit of information about the power grid. I’m curious to see if anyone else has heard about this.

This information comes from a tech guy in a big IT company. He’s concerned about the power grid having issues this winter. The guy claims that parts for the grid have been hit with supply chain issues. There are no spare parts and nothing available for grid expansion. 

I can’t but help wonder if Hurricane Ian’s grid damage sucked all the slack out of the grid parts supply. It would also be interesting to see if some of those areas don’t get their power back. 

I would encourage people to have at least a small solar electric system. Even a 100 watt system is enough to keep a light on and your phone and radio powered. There are plenty of off the shelf systems out there. 

You could go old school and do what I’ve done for years. Get a deep discharge 12 volt lead acid battery, like a trolling motor battery. Take 100 watt solar panel. Connect it to a cheap 10 watt charge controller. Connect the charge controller to the battery. That will charge your battery. To get the power out, wire in a 12 volt cigarette connector to the battery. Then you can use car chargers for your electronics. A small inverter in the less than 1000 watt range will give you some AC power. You could get fancy with fuses and switches but they aren’t even necessary for such a small system. 

Having even just a small amount of renewable power makes a big difference.

Please let me know if you’ve heard anything about grid issues.


Monday, October 24, 2022

Long Strange Solar Road

Roughly 30 years ago my lovely wife and I decided to install significant solar electric power. Back then there were basically three groups of people invested in solar: NASA, California pot growers, and us. It was expensive and plenty of people told me it wouldn’t work here in northern New Hampshire. 

Back then it wasn’t plug and play like it is now. I read a lot of books. There was a company in Massachusetts, Fowler Electric, that dealt in kits. That saved me a lot of headaches. At least someone had some knowledge of New England conditions. I still did all the work myself and fabricated my battery storage, electronics layout, and solar array. 

So why did I go with solar when no one else was? I’d wanted to do it for a long time, but my wife needed convincing. Living out in the sticks our power went out a lot. Worse yet, when we’d call the power company they wouldn’t believe that our power was out. They didn’t receive any other complaints. That’s because in those days what neighbors we had were seasonal. It would be months before they’d notice. 

One day my wife called the power company to complain and they insultingly told her there was nothing she could do about it. She hung up the phone, looked at me, and said, “We are getting solar.”

Other people in my situation put in big generators and called it good. I’m not a big fan of gas or diesel generators. One of my jobs in the Fire Department was to keep the generators on my truck running. It was a royal pain. You do all the maintenance, test weekly, and sometimes they’d fail when you needed them most. 

So I subtracted the price of a hefty generator and the solar numbers looked a lot better. Then when I added in the fact it would offsetting my grid power every day it was even better. Having power that could not be shut off was the best. 

My neighbors still thought it was a waste of money and wouldn’t work. Then we got a massive ice storm that shut down the grid for a week. We watched across the lake as folks started up their generators. Then over the next few days we watched their lights go out as they eventually ran out of fuel. The roads were too dangerous to drive on so getting more fuel was difficult.  My lovely wife, sick of years of ridicule, made sure we had a lot of lights on every night. People knew we didn’t have a generator as it was totally quiet. 

Since we aren’t total jerks we had a lot of folks over for movie nights and let people take hot showers. While our solar electric system wasn’t big, it kept the lights on, the water pump pumping and ran some electronics. 

We still have the original solar panels. They’ve been added to over the years. The charge controller was upgraded to a more efficient model. Our original inverter is still chugging along. The batteries have been changed a few times, but they’d last a good ten year before needing replacement. The expense isn’t too bad figured over the course of a decade. 

So, in short, solar works -even here in the Great North Woods. 


Sunday, October 23, 2022

How the war ends

Russia doesn’t have much of a military. They’ve proven to be a third rate nation. What they did have was a first rate propaganda department. When I hear US politicians parroting Putin’s lines I realize how effective the propaganda has been. Why so many in the US suck up to dictators is a mystery to me. Do they love authoritarianism more than democracy?

Be that as it may, the Kremlin’s propaganda has lost a lot of its polish. The attempts to insert viral videos in social media has gotten clunky of late. Perhaps a lot of those clever computer savvy young people have now fled to Georgia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and parts unknown?

Enough of that little side trip. So how does the war end? Russian victory? Not going to happen. It was known right from the start that Russia failed to commit enough troops and resources to hold the country. It was thought they had enough to take it, but taking it and holding it are two different things. As events on the ground have demonstrated, they didn’t even have a strong enough military to take it in the first place. All they can do now is commit atrocities. That doesn’t win the war. That creates life long enemies. 

Will the war end with a peace treaty? What would that look like? Ukraine has no desire to let Russia keep an inch of Ukrainian soil. Why should they? Russia will just try again later. That’s what history has demonstrated and Ukraine isn’t going to settle for that again. Now if Russia would give up all claims to Ukraine, returned Ukrainian citizens, paid reparations and demilitarized the border, they might get a treaty. Might. 

Let’s say the Russians are pushed back to their 2013 borders. What happens then? In the past the thing to do would be to continue on to Moscow. The west won’t let that happen and I don’t think Ukraine wants or could do that. Now if for some reason NATO got involved, that definitely could happen. However, it’s unlikely.

So how does it end? First lets think about how Putin ends. I can’t see how he survives this. He’s as clever and vicious as a cornered rat so it could go down dirty. Will the rest of Russia let him drag down the country? Will his replacement be even worse? Get your popcorn ready. The show is about to start. 

There’s a fair chance this will end with the breakup of Russia. It’s not a nation. It’s an empire. The bits and pieces that make up the empire are getting tired of what’s been going on in Moscow. What military Russia has left may end up diverted to holding onto the remains of a Russian rump state. 

So what can Joe Average do about this? Not a whole heck of a lot. There will be turmoil aplenty to go around. Expect some economic upsets around the globe. The US is actually in a pretty good place in the long term, so that’s a plus. Concentrate on the basics: food, water, shelter, and personal security. That will help immensely with day to day living. The next six months or so will be quite the ride. 


Saturday, October 22, 2022

Remote Learning Stories

Right now most of the kids are back in school. There are still some classes in some places that are taking place on-line. That’s more likely to happen at the college level. Most parents are relieved to have their kids back in school. Even home school families are glad. They often have events with other home schoolers and those were canceled. Sometimes they participate in one or two regular classes like band or lab science that can’t be easily done at home. 

It was hard on kids. A buddy of mine was telling me his kid took a “gap semester” during the seventh grade. 

“A what?” I asked.

“A gap semester,” he said. 

The kid decided to take a semester off from remote schooling. His parents were checking to see that he was keeping up with the assignments. The kid discovered he could just hit the submit button and the system would accept it. About halfway through the semester the teacher got hold of the parents. Only then did they learn the kid wasn’t actually doing any work. All the submissions were blank pages. Eventually it got sorted and the kid caught up. 

Then there’s what happened to my grandson who’s in grammar school. He was doing his zoom class but there was a glitch in the system. When it came back on-line the system recognized my grandson as the host, not the teacher. Maybe being close to the school with a strong Internet connection had something to do with it. 

My daughter heard outrageous laughter coming from the other room. My grandson had changed his name to Spiderman and was telling silly stories to the rest of the class. Everyone was laughing. Better yet, he kept refusing the teacher’s requests to be let into the meeting. 

My daughter had him let the teacher in. The lady was pretty cool about it. She thanked him for letting her into the meeting and went on with the lessons. 

Most families made the most out of a bad situation. This hit everyone before they had a chance to prepare so there was a lot of winging it going on. At least there’s a few funny stories to come out of it. 


Friday, October 21, 2022

Glorified Homelessness?

There’s a number of articles and videos about the downsides of van life. They make some pretty good points. There’s been a lot of social media posts on how great it is and they gloss over most of the problems. Some of these people haven’t really been out on the road that long. Get back to me after you’ve run low on funds and the transmission gives out on your van. If you can cope with that I’ll follow your channel. It’s not always sunsets on the beach. 

My lovely wife and I did basically the van life thing using a converted ambulance. We never did it for more than six months at a stretch. Believe me, it’s good to know that there’s a house to go back to if things go sideways. For example we had major brake issues while in Florida. My lovely wife was really worried how badly the garage would stick it to us. What if we couldn’t pay? I figured out we still had the ability to rent a car. Worse comes to worse I’d rent a car, clean out as much stuff out of the van as possible and drive home. We’d abandon the ambulance at the garage if the price was too high. 

It turned out we were able to cover the repair, but the garage had us worried for a while. Reviews of the garage were mixed but nobody else could fit us in. One garage wanted us to leave the vehicle and maybe they’d get to it in three weeks. When it’s your home you are kinda stuck. Leaving your vehicle for weeks is not an option. 

How you earn is a living while on the road is an issue. I’ve a small pension and that makes all the difference. Working on-line can be an option. I did it for a while back when I was involved with an on-line publication. However, I didn’t need daily connection. As long as I could download and upload files a few times a week I was golden. As it was I sometimes had to drive for miles to find a place with a good enough connection. 

If you stay in nice secure RV parks with all the services life can be easier, but it’s going to cost you. It might be cheaper to live in an apartment or even a house. Free camping on Federal land is cheap, but you’d better be self-sufficient for everything from power to security. Federal campgrounds are a pretty good deal, especially if you qualify for one of their discount programs. While they can be on the primitive side the campgrounds generally have potable water and bath houses. Some even have full hookups but those will cost more. 

Traveling alone can be rough. I was traveling with my lovely wife which helped a lot. If I was by myself I’d probably be perceived as a big creepy looking guy. Women definitely have to pay greater attention to their security. 

People think you can just pull into a Walmart parking lot and call it good. For one thing not all Walmarts even allow overnight parking. We were two people and a dog yet still felt insecure at some Walmarts. We moved on. When you are tired, or not feeling well, and need a place to stop, it can be stressful. 

I’ve got to agree. In a lot of ways van life can be gloried homelessness. It can be a good time and I’m not opposed to doing something like it again. However, you’ve got to keep your eyes open to the downsides. 


Thursday, October 20, 2022

Doom and Gloom is fun and all . . .

. . . but how are you set for bandages? It’s the simple things that can make a big difference. 

Let’s think about how most home medical kits are put into use. First of all, congratulations if you even have a first aid kit of any sort. That puts you ahead of a lot of people. 

Back to our thought experiment. Say someone gets a minor cut. The kit comes out. The wound is cleaned, sterilized and bandaged. If it is not so minor an injury a bigger patch is used and then you go to the hospital. Just one or two uses depletes significantly the average household first aid kit. That’s not normally a problem. The next time shopping is done the kits can be replenished. 

Now imagine that running off to the hospital is not an option. Then you need a deeper reserve of supplies. Even changing the bandages on a small wound can eat up supplies over a period of time. Now think of a bigger injuries for a longer period of time and you get some idea of the scale of the problem. The cheap kit from the big box store isn’t going to cut it. 

I’m assuming at least someone in the house has basic first aid skills. If you don’t it wouldn’t hurt to take a few courses. Then you have make sure there are enough “tools” for the job. Train to take care of fairly serious injuries on your own for some time. Stock supplies accordingly.

Do I have enough medical supplies? Not yet, but it’s writing blogs like these that make think of the possible problems. More supplies are on the shopping list.


Wednesday, October 19, 2022

After Ukraine Wins

Ukraine has to win. If not the fight will become a NATO war and NATO will win. Expect Russia to lose all of their gains including Crimea. They are actually going to be in a worse position than 2013. Ukraine had a lease agreement so that Russia could keep its base there. That won’t happen this time around. 

Expect Russia to have a change of management. I can’t believe the “news” pundits who are worried about what Putin will do. Russia has proven to be a paper tiger. All Putin can do is to threaten nuclear war. I don’t think he’ll get a chance to use a tactical nuke, even if he wants to. How much do you want to bet that western intelligence knows the status of all those tactical nukes? Odds are very long against them making it into the field. 

There’s the threat of strategic nukes. Maybe Putin is desperate and crazed enough to want to go down in radioactive flames. I seriously doubt he’d get the chance. Falling out of high windows is a common problem among Russian elites. It could be his turn. Don’t know if he’s that crazy but time will tell. Sure, it could all go south, but such is life. You play the odds and take your chances. If Russia isn’t stopped in Ukraine it will have to be stopped in Warsaw. 

The nukes will be issue, just like they were when the USSR broke up. That was dealt with. When the Russian Federation breaks up we already have a template to safe the stockpiles. The Russian Federation will break up. It’s not a country. It’s an empire formed by conquest. Already plenty of non-Russian people are worried that they give to Moscow and get nothing back. Then again, plenty of regular Russians have issues with management too. 

Some long range planners are concerned with what will happen to the territory that will be left after Russia breaks up. Who will fill the power vacuum? China was a concern. The Chinese may want to expand and take control of Russian natural resources. That might happen to a small degree but it won’t get far. China is falling apart too. The US just hastened its demise by cutting off Chinese access to high and mid-grade computer chips. It recently even banned the equipment needed to make the low end stuff. That will hamper them. One thing most people don’t realize is that Japan, all by itself, could hold its own against China. They won’t be by themselves. 

So for now the war drags on creating many unnecessary deaths and disruptions. All those can be laid at the feet of Putin’s ambition. Russia has a reputation of coming back from disaster, rallying the troops and going back into the field to win. They did that in WWII. What the Russians gloss over is that they never could have done it without the US supplying food and weapons. Well this time around the aid is going against Russia. 

Russia has already lost its main goals. More countries joined a strengthened NATO. Ukraine is more independent and nationalistic than ever. Just as bad, Russian equipment, training, and leadership has been shown wanting. The war has been lost. Now it’s a matter of how long the fighting will go on. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Worried about civil unrest?

I’m not, but my home in New Hampshire is in a really safe place. We aren’t really a red or a blue state so that’s interesting. It’s probably good as everyone has to deal with others who don’t think like they do. As long as it’s kept civil honest debate is fine. 

It’s different out here in the rural places. For example a “Liberal” here often has guns and enjoys shooting sports. New Hampshire has some of the fewest gun restrictions yet very low gun crime. However, guns really are not your best protection. Cops are not your best protection. A civil society is your best protection. 

That’s not to say there’s no conflict or potential for conflict. The odds of conflict becoming violent are just lower. In the end we do the math and play the odds. 

If you feel you are in a really unsafe place it’s past time to take a really hard look at your situation. If it’s bad now, how will it be when times get rougher? What are your options? What’s your personal situation like? Are you only concerned about yourself or do you have people depending on you?  

My best guess is that we won’t have large organized insurrections. Governments like to have a monopoly on violence to they squash that sort of thing quickly. What’s more likely are individuals or small groups acting out. That sort of thing can cause a lot of localized trouble, but doesn’t spread too far and is short lived. 

In the greater scheme of things civil unrest isn’t on the top of my list. In the northern reaches of the country we are entering the cold and snowy months. Nobody riots in a blizzard.


Monday, October 17, 2022

Crazy car prices

I hope none of you have had the misfortune of needing to buy a new car lately. Maybe it’s just my limited income but holy crap have cars gotten expensive. New cars, especially full sized trucks, are stupid expensive. Who the heck is paying over $75,000 for a Ford pickup? Then the dealerships adds on fees that push the price up thousands more. It’s nuts. 

Back in the early ‘80s I paid $15,000 for my first house. Sure, it was small and needed updating, but it was an actual house. I did six weeks of work on it before we moved in, but we could have moved in right off. So when I see a truck for $75,000 my mind says, that’s five first houses. Intellectually I know decades of inflation have to be figured in, but my gut still says five houses. 

Supply issues caused some issues with new cars, but those days are over. There’s some indication that dealerships aren’t putting too many cars on their lots to give the impression there’s still a shortage. Eventually growing inventories will catch up with them and prices will come down. 

Then there’s the fact that it’s getting more expensive to borrow money. A lot of people don’t even focus much on the actual price of things. They focus on their monthly payment. When money was cheap they could eat higher prices. With money getting tight, not so much. 

Of course with new cars so hard to get used cars went up in price along with it. It was not uncommon for used cars to go for higher than the list price of new cars. That’s madness, but when the new cars where unavailable it was what the market could bear. 

Used car prices are starting to come down and I expect them to drop a lot more in the coming months. One reason is that new cars are available so that will reduce demand for used. Another thing that’s going to happen is that more used cars are about to hit the market. 

So how do I figure that? Times are getting tough. People are finding themselves short of cash. A car is one of the few things a lot of people own outright. Selling it in a hurry is a way to pay the other bills. Most people aren’t selling their only car, but people are wondering how many cars they really need. A lot of kids are going to find themselves taking the bus. 

As for myself I’m going to keep up on vehicle maintenance. I’m in no hurry to jump into the car market any time soon.


Saturday, October 15, 2022

Hope we get snowed in

Weather predictions are a bit of a guessing game. With that in mind there are indications we’ll have a big snow year in northern NH. My ideal winter has a lot of snow and not a lot of sub zero days. That’s below zero Fahrenheit for my International readers. Of course, when it gets to forty below it doesn’t matter what scale you use. Fortunately it’s been a few years since that happened. 

Deep snow cover actually provides insulation for the ground. The frost doesn’t go down nearly as deep and my water lines don’t freeze. The worse is when sewer lines freeze. You do not want to know the details. Lets just say that the next summer I dug up the lines and added four inches of high density foam insulation. 

We had only a mediocre snow year last winter. That’s one reason we were on the edge of drought during the summer. Fortunately we received enough rain to keep the worse problems at bay. As it was farmers had issues and some wells went dry.

A deep snow pack is great for winter sports. If you are going to spend winter in snow country you have to learn to play in it. If you don’t it’s one long winter. 

Actually, what I’m looking forward to is the quiet and isolation. Nothing beats sitting by a warm fire with a coffee and a good book as the snow comes down.


Friday, October 14, 2022

An Interesting Winter

. . . but maybe a good spring? 

We shall see. I can make a pretty good argument for the interesting winter part. We already have an interesting fall. Just following the current issues will be enough to hold our attention. 

Inflation is in the news, and in the grocery stores. I’m not sure that the Fed’s job killing efforts are the way to go. However, I’m not an economist. Too bad, as it’s a great job. You can always be wrong and still work in your field. 

Real estate has some negative trends going on. High interest rates are making home loans more expensive. Since hurricane Ian you can expect insurance rates to go up too. Places that were hot markets during the pandemic are cooling rapidly. Turns out a lot of urban dwellers don’t like living in rural Lower East Podunk Nowhereville. 

This mid term elections are heating up. I’m betting there will be more than a few surprises on election day. Of course everyone will accept the results, shake hands, and plan for the next election. Right. That doesn’t happen so much anymore. Personally I can’t believe how many people are still stuck on the 2020 election. The world keeps on moving. Try to keep up.

The war in Ukraine is getting more intense. The Ukrainians are wisely hitting Russian logistics very hard. Russia’s response has been to hit static civilian targets. It’s a war crime and it doesn’t advance their cause. Expect more Ukrainian gains. Russian conscripts are going into a meat grinder. Some military experts expect winter to cause a major slow down in intensity. They might be in for a surprise. 

One thing to come out of all this is the weakness of Russia. They are struggling and are getting clobbered by the Ukrainian's use of western weapons. Here’s the thing. The west is only now starting to send a little of the top shelf stuff. The Russians have been getting beat with second and third tier weapons. 

Energy is an issue and will continue to be until at least spring. Europe is going to have a long cold winter. However, they are working very hard to fill the huge gap left by departing Russian fuels. By next winter they won’t even miss Russian energy supplies as they will have found alternatives. 

Gasoline prices really aren’t all that bad in the US right now. The big issue is diesel and heating oil. I know heating oil is too expensive for me this winter. The woodstove will be our primary heat source. My neighbor locked in a lower price with a prebuy program. Soon after I checked into the program only to find it was suspended in my area. 

By spring my guess is that a lot of the financial instability will be over. The trial and error school of economics will have sorted something out. The election will be behind us and new people settled into office. It’s just a feeling, but I think Russia will be seriously looking for a way out of Ukraine -if they haven’t been pushed out by then. A change of leadership is probably already in the works. As the weather warms up pressure on diesel and fuel stocks will drop. 

Spring could have a lot of things sorted out and some positive trends started. 

Of course, freaking Putin could decided to go nuclear and all bets are off.


Thursday, October 13, 2022

Last Good Day

I have garage envy. One of the things my house lacks is a decent garage -or any sort of garage at all. It sure would make storing the boat or working on cars a lot easier. 

Wednesday was a beautiful day, sunny, in the high 60’s at the peak of foliage season. It would have been the perfect day to take the scooter down back roads. Alas, it was not to be. The long range forecast  shows rain for the foreseeable future. There’s even a chance of snow next week. 

We have several days of flood warning. I’m not too concerned about flooding out here in the hills. It can cut us off from town now and then. That’s one reason why we have a well stocked pantry. 

With that in mind I set the scooter keys down and picked up the toolbox. In the morning I winterized the sailboat. It’s currently sitting under a well tied down humongous tarp. The boat is ready for snow. 

In the afternoon I changed the front brake pads on my lovely wife’s car. My regular mechanic retired so I was forced to go somewhere else. The car needed its yearly inspection during the month of June. It passed, but the mechanic said the front brakes were getting thin and would need replacement. He quoted me a rather hefty price to do the job. 

With that in mind I went down to the auto parts store and picked up brake pads. So there I was, four months later, finally changing the pads. Turns out I could have waiting a lot longer. The pads were only about half worn. Since I already had the new pads I changed them anyway. 

It took all afternoon to change the pads. The job wasn’t that hard, but since it was such a nice day everyone was out for a walk. I spent as much time visiting as working. One bicycle rider, who I’ve never met before, stopped and asked if I needed help. That was real friendly of him but I politely refused his assistance.

Eventually it all got done. By then I was too beat and it was too late go go play. Oh well. Sometimes even I have to adult.


Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Go Fund Me Medical

I just sent off a donation for someone to get medical care. They have really bad long covid symptoms. A lot of people are suffering to various degrees. The estimates vary. I’ve seen numbers as low as 1 in 13 and as high as 1 in 5. At any rate, it’s a lot of people. 

Symptoms vary. Some sound fairly minor, like losing one’s sense of taste. That doesn’t sound so bad until you eat a gas station yogurt with fuzzy mold. Then for some people they get a sense of taste again, but it’s not normal. For example everything might taste like gasoline. As you can imagine it’s really hard to eat enough to stay healthy. 

The person I’m donating to has problems so debilitating that they have no life at all. There is a treatment that might help but it’s only available in a few countries. The US isn’t one of them. That’s an issue. No doubt this person is not alone. 

Numbers are hard to nail down, but there are a lot of US citizens that can no longer work. If they are “lucky” they might get some sort of disability payment. I know from harsh experience that nothing messes up retirement planning like an unplanned medical retirement. The sudden drop in income creates a lot of hardship when someone’s too sick and weak to deal with it. A lot of people don’t even get that. 

Long covid is something that will have to be dealt with. There’s a lot on the line for individuals and the nation. There has to be more research and better treatments. Problems aren’t going to go away by themselves. While Go Fund Me campaigns can help a few, it’s not a national health policy.


Monday, October 10, 2022

First Responder Trauma

I know a Professional who counsels First Responders who suffer from on the job trauma. She was very busy during the hight of the pandemic. It’s important work and I only wish there were more mental health professionals in that field. 

Recently the things they deal with have changed. They aren’t complaining so much about dealing with death and destruction. The ones still working emergency services are handling that aspect better. There’s a new wave of complaints and it’s something the trauma professional didn’t train for.

The big complaints now are things like low wages, long hours, under staffing, excessive overtime, lack of respect from superiors, and things of that nature. When the blood and guts part of your job isn’t the worse part something is definitely wrong. 

The counselor is even hearing from people in upper management. There was a Fire Chief practically in tears because the city refused to budget basic safety equipment. He didn’t want to send people into harms way without proper gear. It broke his heart. 

It’s shameful how we treat people who put themselves in harm’s way to help others. 


Sunday, October 9, 2022

Odds and Ends

Well, it looks like Russia’s logistic problems keep getting worse. At the time of writing the Kerch bridge that connects Crimea with Russia has suffered significant damage. No idea exactly how bad or for how long it’ll be out of order. Not only was the roadway damaged, the rail bridge was also shut down. Russia moves everything of significance by rail. Right now I don’t know how it was damaged, but if it happened once it can happen again.

On Friday I dropped off another load of waste vegetable oil to a biodiesel company in Vermont. That’s about the last of the stuff I had stored back when I ran diesel vehicles on waste vegetable oil. With that gone it’ll be much easier to sort out my basement, including adding more insulation.

When we got back home from Vermont I saw a very large black bear about 200 feet from my house. It would not surprise me if his sensitive nose picked up the lingering smell of vegetable oil. There was a small amount of spillage on the grass and that would be enough for a bear to investigate. 

I’d also like to add a bit more to my blog post about tents. I’m a big proponent of using large, comfortable, well made tents. They are really great if you are establishing a base camp for a couple weeks or longer. We also travel with a small tent that’s quick and easy to set up. That’s really helpful when traveling and you are only stopping overnight. 

If traveling by van there’s another neat trick with a small tent. Let’s say you have a great dispersed camping site. Even though you are living out a the van, set up a cheap tent on the site. You don’t even have to put anything in it. The idea is that it serves as a place holder. If you go somewhere with your vehicle there’s still something on your site to show it’s occupied. 

Well, that’s a few random things I want to write whole blog posts about. 


Saturday, October 8, 2022

Racing Winter

When you live in the Great North Woods winter is a big deal. It gets pretty chill up here snuggled up against the Canadian border. 

For a lot of years I didn’t worry about winter’s chill. I spent a lot of winter down in Florida and other parts in the sunbelt. One of my favorite areas was exactly where Hurricane Ian made landfall. It will be a while before we go back down there. 

Right now the current plan is to spend most of the winter here in the Frostlands. Fortunately we’ve had some pretty decent weather this fall. I’ve been able to get some projects done. However, the clock is running. It can go from T-shirt weather to snow in matter of weeks. There are years when the snow starts falling in October and stays on the ground well into spring. That would definitely bring some projects to a halt. 

My plan to reduce the area of the house we heat is going well. I was able to frame up and install a door that shuts off the whole upstairs. All we have to do is to bring our bed and few other items to the first floor and we are good. The basement is getting a lot of junk cleaned out. That will make it a lot easier to beef up the insulation down there. There’s some R-19 sitting my mud room just waiting to be installed. 

My first delivery of fiber blocks for the woodstove came it on Thursday. I love the free delivery when bought by the pallet. The new forklift operator did an amazing job coming down my questionable driveway. He saved me a lot of work by dropping it so close to the house. 

With OPEC cutting production I probably won’t be buying much fuel oil, if any. They priced themselves out of my budget. Now they’ll get nothing from me. 


Friday, October 7, 2022

Capitalist War Fighting

Ukraine pays cash for Russian soldiers who surrender. They have nice payouts if you surrender with equipment like a helicopter or a tank. It’s probably the best deal these Russians are ever going to get. They are also offered Ukrainian citizenship. 

It’s a really smart move for the Ukrainians. They get enemy combatants off the battlefield and they acquire equipment at good discounts. This is one of the few wars were both sides use so much of the same equipment. Not only do the Ukrainians get equipment, they know how to use it. 

I don’t know how often this sort of equipment transfer takes places. It probably pales in comparison to the vast amount of weapons acquired from fleeing Russians. They say the amount of Russian equipment captured far exceeds the amount of equipment supplied by the west. 

Imagine the frustrations of Russian logistics. Equipment is shipped from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. It finally makes it to the front lines. Then the Ukrainians acquire the vehicles. They paint fresh ID information over the Russian “Z.” Before long the vehicle is back in combat -against the Russian side.