Thursday, June 30, 2022

Induction Stove Top

During the cool months we cook on a wood fired cookstove. It does a great job. It’s a modern airtight design. The oven is large enough to handle a 25 pound turkey. We don’t cook on wood during the warm summer months. It’s not the 19th century. 

For summer cooking we’ve had everything from a regular electric stove, to a propane stove, and even a simple two burner hotplate. Our most recent solution has been a fairly inexpensive induction cook top. The two burner unit was something like $130 when we purchased it. So how has it performed?

There are pluses and minuses. On the plus side: it’s fast, energy efficient, and the burners cool down very quickly as they only get hot from the pan. It’s safer. Downsides: not every pan works with induction, the digital controls lack fine running. There are times when I’m cooking  setting #2 is too low and #3 is too high. There is no 2.5. Water spilled on the controls can change the settings. It doesn’t take much -just condensation from a lid dripped onto the top can change programming. 

Fortunately most of my pans are cast iron and they work great with induction. Some stainless steel works, but some doesn’t. Of course, glass doesn’t work at all. When shopping for new cookware look on the label to see if it’s compatible. 

Another weird thing for off grid people: mine doesn’t work with modified sine wave inverters. It needs a pure sine wave power source. That’s a problem for me as I’ve still using a 25 year old Trace modified sine wave inverter. It’s been indestructible and the vast majority of my equipment works just fine on it. For now I’m running the induction stove on grid power. It barely moves the meter. 

In spite of the negatives I’ve been pleasantly surprised on how well I like cooking with it. The stove top models are cheap enough that you could buy a one or two burner stove and test is for yourself.


Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Water Security

How secure is your water source? Do you even know where your water comes from? If one day you turn the tap on and nothing happens can you get water from somewhere else? 

Everyone who talks about being prepared stresses the importance of water storage. I don’t bother storing water. I don’t have to. My water comes from a well 50 feet from the house. I can lift the well cover and touch the water with my hand if I want. If that fails there’s an 80 acre fresh water lake 300 feet away. There’s also a never used well on my property across the road just sitting there. 

You can understand why the drought in the west freaks me out. Water comes from far away and it takes some major engineering to get it to homes. It also takes a fair bit of energy to pump it to where it’s needed. People living in dry regions need water storage to deal with even minor interruptions. Should something major happen you might have to bug out before your storage goes dry. 

There are always problems with bugging out. Now imagine the reason your water went dry is due to a major catastrophe. The same disaster that shut your water off might have shut down your road system. That would be nasty. 

So what can you do? Move. That works but is it practical for you? Do you feel lucky? There are alternatives. Even the parched west has natural sources of water. Might be worth finding out about them and if you can access them in an emergency. If you are by the coast is might be worth looking into ways to desalinate sea water. People living on boats have been doing it for years with water makers. (reverse osmosis systems.) Even low tech solar distillers work. It’s even possible to build small scale solar stills with junk washed up on the beach. It might be a skill worth learning.

Something to think about before you get thirsty. 


Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Economic Indicator

One of my personal economic indicators is my car repair situation. When things are going really well I like to have the garage do most of the work. During hard times I work on my own cars. In the last couple of years I’ve really felt the need to save money where I can. During this new period of high inflation it’s even more critical than ever. 

I don’t have a garage so I have to work exposed to the elements. Worse than a little rain is the bugs. There’s nothing like having a deer flies land on you while your greasy hands are trying to install something. It’s even worse in the winter cold. Imagine changing a water pump on the side of the road in -30 temperatures. It’s not a fond memory. In the past year I’ve gone back to dealing with the discomforts in the interests of economy. 

My car recently passed state inspection. The garage noted that while the front bake pads were legal they were getting thin. He helpfully sent me off with an estimate for replacing the pads and rotors. Like that’s going to happen. In a few weeks I’ll be changing the pads. Currently the rotors are fine and since I’m changing the pads early they’ll stay fine. 

More tools have been added to my collection and they’ve paid for themselves on the first jobs. The Blazer had the dreaded check engine light come on. Before the availability of cheap code readers that was always a trip to the garage. Yesterday I hooked it up and discovered it was a minor leak in the pollution system. All the possible repairs are cheap. Just making sure the gas cap was on on securely might have fixed the problem. 

Keeping the vehicles in good repair is essential right now. Replacing them is not in the budget. Besides, you can’t bug out in a vehicle that’s sitting up on blocks. 


Monday, June 27, 2022

April 12, 1865

Confederate troops fired on Ft. Sumpter starting the US civil war. 

The division was caused by slavery. Some revisionists would like to say it was about “states rights.” While that might technically be true the right they wanted to protect was the right to keep slaves.

In the modern world slavery is recognized for the evil it is. There is nothing more basic than having control of your own body. Slave owners could even tell a slave who they could make love to. Slave owners had control over female slave’s babies. It was a dark time in our History.

Naturally, escaped slaves would flee to free states where their rights were respected. The slave states did not like that and got certain laws passed. Those laws required people in free states to capture escaped slaves and send them back. Those laws finally broke the nation as the free state people were having none of it. 

Those who forget History are doomed to repeat it.


Sunday, June 26, 2022

Satellite Messaging

I’ve had a Garmain Inreach mini since 2019. So how’s that been working out for me? In short, pretty darn well. 

They use the reliable Iridium satellite system. The system pretty much gives you world wide coverage. That matters to me as I’m often beyond the range of cell towers. In fact, I can’t even get cell service at my house. 

The mini works best in conjunction with a smart phone. I’m using my old phone that no longer has an active subscription plan. While the mini works fine alone some things work much better using a phone app. The mapping function really needs a phone screen. Messaging is more convenient using a cell phone than hunting for the letters one by one on the mini. 

The SOS feature is a covered button right on the mini. That’s a great feature if you ever need assistance anywhere on the planet. The service can check your GPS location and send the appropriate aid. The messaging feature is useful in an emergency too as you can give details of your situation that will help the rescuers. 

The Garmin has a lot of features and it’s worth checking to see if they are right for you. There are now a number of other Iridium based messaging systems so it’s worth comparing. They have different plan requirements and offer other things beside simple text messages. Personally, I use messaging, weather updates and maps the most. 

The big thing for me is the piece of mind knowing that SOS button is there. I don’t send a lot of messages but when I do I’m glad I can. Last winter our grid, Internet, and phones went down. I stuck a shovel in the snow out in the yard with a clear view of the sky and hung the mini on the handle. From inside my warm house I connected using bluetooth with my old cell phone. Thanks to the satellites we were able to tell family members we were fine. 

I always take it with me when hiking, on the scooter, or out boating. 

They’ve come out with a Garmin inreach mini2 that’s supposed to be an upgrade. Since mine still works I’m not going to bother. There are some good articles comparing different companies and systems but make sure they connect to the Iridium system. That’s the key to communication beyond the reach of cell phones. 


Saturday, June 25, 2022

Alternative Energy Dead Ends

I’ve been interested in alternative energy for decades. Some experiments worked out really well: solar electric, batch solar hot water, waste veggie oil powered vehicles, cold well water refrigeration -a lot of stuff. 

There are some notable alternative energy projects I didn’t do for various reasons. The big one was wind energy. Plenty of places have good locations for wind power. My location isn’t one of them. It’s not the price of the wind generator so much as the price of the tower. When in the mountains fairly tall towers are needed to get above turbulence that can rip your windmill apart. There was a guy in town who had one on too short a tower. Periodically the darn thing would throw blades like giant spears of death. He’s lucky no one got killed. 

Micro hydro needs a good water flow with a sufficient gradient. That wasn’t going to happen with the trickle that comes from my well overflow. 

At one point I got way too deep into the design of methane digesters. There are farms that use animal waste to generate methane to run generators and stoves. It was the same energy source used in the movie “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.” The only problem is that you need a lot of farm animals to make a go of it -and you are shoveling lots of animal poop. Most farms have discovered they get better use from their animal wastes by composting everything to reduce fertilizer inputs. 

Anybody familiar with wood burning cars? During WWII a lot of gasoline vehicles were converted to run on wood chips. The wood was turned into gas with a big complicated mess of pipes and valves. There are people building wood gasifacation systems to this day. It’s more of a novelty that truly practical, unless you have special circumstances. I was tempted to build one, but it wouldn’t make financial sense to do so. There are some cool YouTube videos out there. 

As much as I loved to tinker with alternative energy I had some serious restrictions. It either would have to have a very good chance of working and saving money or be put together on the cheap from salvaged junk. Oh yeah, my lovely wife said I couldn’t burn the house down either. That was seriously tested when I built a heater to burn waste veggie oil. Let’s just say I had some fuel flow issues. 

After setting off smoke detectors on three floors and sending a plum of black smoke high into the air, my lovely wife put an end to the experiments. Too bad. It was just getting interesting.


Friday, June 24, 2022

Power Outage Lessons

I guy I know had to deal with a six day power outage in Ohio not that long ago. He wasn’t prepared. 

Lucky for him he was able to borrow a small generator from a neighbor. Basically all he was able to do was to keep his fridge and freezer from thawing out. In spite of the triple digit heat he didn’t have enough power to run a single AC unit. They spent the whole time in their basement where it was cooler. 

The big lesson is that he wasn’t prepared at all. Another thing he learned was that generators can be expensive to run. He spent $50/day on gasoline. 

You’ve got to ask yourself if you really need a freezer. I don’t think I have much more than $50 worth of food in my refrigerator's freezer compartment. Many years ago I owned a very large freezer and would stock up by buying food in bulk. Even back then the math didn’t work out for me. Electricity costs ate up any savings from bulk buying. If you fill your freezer with wild game and caught fish your numbers will be different than mine were. 


All my serious food storage doesn’t require refrigeration or freezing. It’s freeze dried, dehydrated, dry stored or canned. 

If you plan on a lot of frozen foods in your preps you’d better have a way to keep it frozen. Preferably one that doesn’t cost a fortune like a thirsty generator. However, you’ll probably choke when you see how many solar panels and batteries it takes to run a big freezer. 

If you have something like medication that needs refrigeration it might be worth investing in a tiny cooler type fridge. Make sure to get one with a compressor, not thermoelectric. The compressor types sip power while the thermoelectric are power hungry and don’t really cool that well anyway. 

Something to think about.


Thursday, June 23, 2022

More Stupid Drug Store Issues

A while back I posted how an automated notification sent me on a while goose chase to get my lovely wife’s prescription filled. It’s almost a 100 mile round trip but the drug store is in a program that saves us hundred’s of dollars every month. 

So my lovely wife gets the drug store on the phone and they say her meds will be ready after 10 a. m.. Fine. I drive out there, taking the scooter because gas ain’t cheap. There’s one heck of a line at the drive through and I wait over 40 minutes to talk with the pharmacist. I’m patient, but it’s starting to wear thin.

She tells me I’m a day early. She does not care that I had confirmation on the phone that I could pick up the meds. Just to make things interesting, the pharmacy will be closed the next four days due to staffing issues. If everything goes perfectly I might be able to pick my wife’s meds before she has medical issues. I probably shouldn’t mention that this is a Walgreens in Littleton NH, but the truth is the truth. 

Well, it is what it is. Rather than have the whole day turn into a bust I did a little detour. The road up to Week’s State Park in Lancaster NH is open. There’s a new little shack near the entrance. My first thought was that they were now charging to go up the road. Nope, there was just a young guy there to give out information. The road is a pleasant little ride on a scooter. Great views.

While I was at I figured might as well take a selfie:

Got my good side too!


Wednesday, June 22, 2022


When money is tight it’s tempting to cheap out when replacing major appliances. Sometimes you can get away with it, sometimes you can’t.

First off, I’m going to mention two names. Samsung appliances, pretty much across the board, are terrible. That’s what the appliance repair guys tell me. Then there’s my experience years ago with Maytag. They were still advertising  “the lonely Maytag repair man.” The guy was all alone with nothing to do due Maytag quality being so good. When I bought mine they were just starting to make them in China. Worse washing machine I ever owned. The repairman came to the house twice and never got it to stop leaking oil. 

Rule of thumb when buying appliances is to get commercial grade if you can afford it. They are expensive, but cheap in the long run. Too bad my budget doesn’t run that way. If you have to pick one appliance to go commercial I’d go with the clothes washer. 

Dryers tend to last a fairly long time for most brands. If you don’t mind mismatched appliances you can get some real bargains on the used market for dryers. 

All the appliance guys use Bosch dishwashers. Not cheap, but I got mine gently used for $50 because it didn’t fit the previous owner’s kitchen remodel. Great bargain. Washing dishes by hand isn’t the end of the world either. 

Where you can save money is refrigerators. The trick is to avoid bells and whistles. Don’t get things like ice makers in the door. Go simple and you can go cheap. Of course, there is always commercial grade but that’s a lot of money where a cheap simple fridge will usually do the job. 

Stoves are generally pretty trouble free or only require inexpensive repairs. Even Samsung stoves aren’t terrible. The one thing you have to do to avoid premature stove death is to avoid the self clean function. The high heat generated by that function will age the stove like crazy. 

When appliances are out of warranty don’t be afraid to go to YouTube university and repair them yourself. Might as well give it a go if your other option is to throw it out. I don’t know about your budget but I’m not in a hurry to do that. 


Tuesday, June 21, 2022

My Kid Proves Me Wrong

For years I’ve been saying that precious metals have a problem as a store of wealth. I said you can’t gas up the car and pay the attendant with a piece of gold. Nor can you go to a restaurant and get a couple of meals with gold. 

Then my daughter tells me about a trip her and her husband went on. They wanted to go on a long car trip but had very little money. What they had was a pile of gold watch cases. My son-in-law once worked for a jeweler. The old guy gave a bunch of scrap to my son-in-law when the jewelry shop closed down. 

So here’s what they did. When getting low on gas they’d pull into a town with a pawn shop. After pawning one of the cases they’d have enough money for a tank of gas and a couple of meals. Rinse and repeat for the whole trip. 

So while they couldn’t actually pay the gas station in gold, they were able to do the next best thing. My own kid showed me I forgot to account for individual ingenuity when it comes to precious metals. 


Monday, June 20, 2022

Electric rates

Eversource, my local electrical company, is set to double electrical rates by August 1, 2022. Other parts of the bill won’t be going up so in effect it’s about a 50% increase. That’s not something I wanted to hear. 

I shouldn’t be surprised. Some back of the envelope calculations showed that electric heat would actually be cheaper than #2 heating oil. That’s probably no longer the case. At least I now know. 

My winter heating options are more limited than I’d like. I’ve a propane heater sitting on my porch that will probably never get installed. It was going to be backup as it can run without electrical power. The price of propane is discouraging enough for me to put the install off indefinitely. 

Right now my best options are more insulation, reduce the square footage of the house we heat, and firewood. I like using compressed sawdust fire blocks in my woodstove. The local lumber yard will deliver them free if you buy them a pallet at a time. Not doubt the price of those and availability could be an issue. What I’m down to is old school regular firewood. At least I live in the woods surrounded by trees. It’s a lot of work, but beats going broke or freezing. 


Sunday, June 19, 2022

Drought Map

I just checked New Hampshire’s current drought Map: 

As of right now things are looking pretty good. I was concerned at the end of winter. The snow pack wasn’t that great going into the warmer weather. It looks like we’ve had enough rain to keep things under control. That’s a relief. 

We’ve been fortunate. I’ve friends and family in other parts of the country dealing with triple digit temperatures. We’ve had pleasant days in the mid 70s during the same time period. It looks like we are not going to be affected by heat domes in the near future. 

If conditions stay good it’ll be great for local agriculture. I might be stocking up on local foods at the end of the summer. For me that will mean mostly potatoes, squash, carrots, beans, and apples. Might be a bad time for anything grown in California. There are other regions also suffering from drought and heat. You might want to see what your area grows and how that’s working out. 

My dad used to tell me stories about when he was a kid. On Christmas he would get an orange in his Christmas stocking. It was a big deal. I always remember him thoroughly enjoying oranges as an adult. He was delighted that he could get one anytime he wanted. 

We may be reaching a point in the not too distant future where certain foods will once again be a rare treat. 


Saturday, June 18, 2022

Kind of a Jerk

Elon Musk is kind of a jerk. The richest man in the world is pretty thin skinned. A little criticism and he freaks out. Just look at how quickly he fires people who say anything he doesn’t like. He’s really quick to cut off a person’s livelihood. Now imagine living on Mars where he could cut off your very air. It’s not like you could strike out on your own.

Actually that must be the dream of all bosses. Talk about a captive workforce.

So that got me thinking of the Great Resignation. One of the big things behind people willing to quit their jobs is the ability to get another one, usually at higher pay. That little bit of freedom is driving businesses nuts. 

There are other ways people are kept in check. I bet you know people who are only working because they need the medical insurance. If you have a chronic medical condition or are supporting someone who does, you are stuck. 

Student debt is another method of control. That keeps the hamsters on the wheel. 

High housing prices and the price of necessities keep us in chains too. 

From the viewpoint of Wall Street things are working out just fine. Now once they cool the economy and increase the unemployment rate, those pesky job resigners will have no choice but to take what’s given them. 

At least they can’t turn our air off . . . yet.


Friday, June 17, 2022

Cheaper than the library

High fuel prices make for some weird economic decisions. I was talking to my  niece and we figured out it was cheaper for her to buy a book online than to borrow it from the library. That’s not an electronic book but an actual paper and ink book. A good part of that is living out in the country where everything is a fair drive down the road. 

I never thought I see the day. The only thing that makes sense is that fuel prices have not been fully integrated into home delivery yet. Someone is eating the cost. That can’t go on forever. Of course, the delivery van is not delivering one book to the countryside but hundreds or thousands of items all over. It’s a lot more efficient than your lone trip to the city library.

My wife is a bit concerned with all the packages showing up at our house. However, I’m getting some stuff delivered while that’s still an economical option. It’s not like the bank is going to pay me any worthwhile interest.

Speaking of high fuel prices, my neighbor was talking about how she really made out with her heating oil prebuy last heating season. She was still paying $2.75 when prices had skyrocketed to over $5.00. She’s not sure if her oil company will even offer a prebuy option this coming winter. 

Just to make things interesting, I remember some years back during another price spike one company had amazing prebuy options. A lot of people signed up and sent in their checks. Oil prices continued to go up and the company just plain disappeared. The remaining oil companies struggled to meet demand as people were left high and dry. No doubt there will be scams this time around too. People have short memories.

With transportation and heating costs going up we’ve got to take a good hard look at how we do things. You may discover weird stuff like buying a book is cheaper than borrowing it for free.


Thursday, June 16, 2022

Heads up on food storage

Just thought I’d give everyone a heads up. Prices of some dehydrated emergency foods have come down. They aren’t quite at 2019 prices, but we probably won’t see those again for some time -if ever. However, some products have dropped a lot from their highs. You still have to shop around. 

They aren’t the most economical way to store food. You can do a lot better buying things like rice, dried beans, and oatmeal in bulk. 

There are advantages that make it worth having. 25 year storage is a big one, of course. Ease of preparation is nothing to sneeze at. Usually it’s just a matter of adding boiling water. In fact, in a pinch you could rehydrate with cold water and still safely eat them. Their compact size and light weight are good if you are traveling. 

I like to take some when car camping. Sometimes it’s nice not to have to leave the campground to go food shopping when normal supplies run low. With the price of gas right now they could pay for themselves by reducing the number of trips you have to make. 

If you ever have to bug out they are easy to take along. I recommend actually taste testing a few meals to see what you like. There’s no sense in have food storage that don’t want to eat. 


Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Good Life

What happens on Wall Street has very little to do with an individual’s happiness and well being. We all need the basics: shelter, food, water, clothes, and a basic level of security. In the big scheme of things it’s possible for everyone to have their basic needs taken care of. Things don’t work out that way, nothing says it can’t. 

People could have a very good life without spending a lot of money or destroying the planet. What makes for happiness? Being surrounded by people who love you is a big one. Can’t find that listed on the stock exchange. We are social creatures -some more so than others. 

On top of that we can have music, literature, games, philosophy, sports, religion -a whole range of good things for very little. Sure, you can pay silly money for these things but you don’t have to. While it’s possible to fly halfway around the world to go to some big concert, playing a guitar around a fire with friends is good too. You could go to a pro baseball game or play in a neighborhood softball league. The latter is probably better for you anyway. 

We live in a society where everything is monetized. Hobbies have been ruined by trying to turn them into jobs. They say find a job doing something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. In reality turning something your love into a job tends to turn it into something you hate. You might love to bake a dozen cupcakes for friends and family. Having to bake 500 of them, all exactly alike, day after day, kinda sucks. 

The trick these days is to find a relatively painless way to provide for you basic needs. After that you can seek out all kinds of fulfilling diversions. When the rats get off the wheel Wall Street suffers, but you probably won’t like most of those folks anyway.


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Magic Money

It looks like Bitcoin is really taking it on the chin. I know some of my readers are Bitcoin enthusiasts. I only hope they were able to turn their cryptocurrency into something real before the current crash. My concerns about cryptos are their limited ability to act like real money. They are not easily converted into goods and services. Cryptocurrency mining appears to be a waste of resources to me. I know others will disagree but that’s how I feel. 

As far as I can see, there are two important things to come out of crypto development. The big one is blockchain security. They are also good for money laundering and other illegal money transfers.

Now let me dump on gold just a bit. Seems like a good day to gore sacred cows. Let’s go with one issue that’s currently happening. Russia has vast gold reserves. They can’t sell it outside of the country. It’s basically useless for International trade right now. 

The obituary for the US dollar has been prematurely written over and over again. It’s still the International safe haven. Just about everything is done in dollars. There are exception but they don’t get a lot of taction in real world markets. So what is the US dollar really tied to? What supports it? Probably the most powerful military in the world. 

As for myself, I think I’m invested in the potato and turnip exchange. At least you can eat them and that’s no small thing these days. 


Monday, June 13, 2022

Triple digit heat

Looks like a hot one over most of the country. Sometimes times it’s nice to live in mountains of New Hampshire. Back in the days before air conditioning people would come here to escape city heat. That is, the wealthy would escape the heat. No doubt the blue collar working folks had to tough it out. 

There are still some of the old grand hotels left from back in the day. It was pretty good living for those who could afford it. 

I don’t even own an air conditioner. If I lived in town where the urban heat island is in effect I might own one. Out here by the lake, shaded by trees, fans work well enough. Sometimes there are a few days that are too hot and humid to be comfortable. My procedure for those days is to crack a cold beer and wander into the lake deep enough to cool off. Works for me. 

This is the flip side of living in a cooler climate. Winters can be brutal, but there are ways of keeping warm. It doesn’ take high technology to put some clothes on and to keep a wood fire burning. Air conditioning is another issue. Without AC it can be unlivable. If you have a good water supply in a hot arid climate evaporative cooling works. It’s worked for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. In modern times swamp coolers can do the job. That doesn’t work in a humid climate. There’s not much you can do except stay in the shade, try and catch a breeze and move as little as possible. 

There’s a reason the south didn’t really become a popular place to live until the invention of air conditioning. Something to think about when the grid is struggling to meet demand. 


Sunday, June 12, 2022

Grid Issues

I’m hearing some reports out of Europe about them already having grid issues. They are experiencing a lot of short outages right now. So far it’s not too big a deal, but time will tell. With Russian gas cut off people have switched to using electrical options. That puts strain on an already maxed out grid.

Here in the US we will definitely have more and more issues. The heat in the western US is a double blow. Demand for AC is up, but electricity generation from hydro is down. Drought takes its toll. The Midwest has issued conservation requests. Those requests could turn into demands. The Texas grid is a mess, but that’s by design. 

Here in New England I’m thinking we won’t do too badly during the warmer months. Winter might be an issue. New England uses a lot of #2 heating oil, which is basically diesel. Prices are so bad that electric heaters are looking like a better deal. That will cause unexpected demands. 

High gas prices increase demands for more electric cars. Hopefully the grid will expand to meet demands. Actually, we’d probably be better off with a much more distributed power system, but that’s a blog for another day. 

As for my personal situation I plan on not buying heating oil this coming winter. Wood, some electrical heat, and reducing the heated areas of the house should work. A good part of my electrical needs have been met with solar electric. However, it can’t handle running electric heaters. Those draw from the grid. I do have the option of switching the whole house over to my solar electric system. It takes about five minutes to go down the basement to tie the power panels together and to cut the grid connection. You really don’t want to backflow power down the grid. The linesmen don’t like that at all. While I can run just about everything on my battery bank, the solar panels won’t keep up with the increased demand. It’s fine for a short while. 

If we could keep our locally generated grid power local we’d be in great shape. We have a lot of hydro, wind, some distributed grid tied solar and a biomass plant. Unfortunately that all dumps into the regional grid. If you want reliable power you have to make it yourself. 

So it looks like there are going to be some inconveniences -at the very least. No reason to panic, but reason to prepare.


Saturday, June 11, 2022

Scouting trips

I used to know my way around all the back roads in these parts. The problem is the years slip by. Things change. Some of the dirt roads I used to drive now have good sized trees growing in them and washed out bridges. There are new dirt roads that look like super highways. Heck, some of those dirt roads are no longer dirt but have been paved. 

Thanks to GPS mapping it’s easier than it used to be to drive back roads. Just the other day I was thinking a side road looked like it might connect to another road I was familiar with. Fortunately, I called up the maps on my inreach device. Not only did that road not connect, it wandered off a long long ways before disappearing into a large bog. 

My poking around revealed some interesting surprises. The first is the number of houses that have been built out in the middle of nowhere. The second is how many new dirt roads there are since I was kid. Some areas have been logged heavily. It’s good to know how to get around using fire and logging roads if the main roads are blocked. 

It’s been really interesting to see how my area has changed. The population hasn’t increased much over the years. People are living more spread out. There appear to be more vacation homes too. 

My little scooter has been great for checking things out. After driving around all afternoon I put a bit over $5 of gas in the tank. It’s also good for getting around locked gates. It’s not that I ignore locked gates; sometimes they get locked after I go up the road. While a scooter isn’t exactly a dirt bike, if I go slow it handles just fine. 


Friday, June 10, 2022

Problem with predictions

You do your best with the information available at the time. It can be frustrating trying figure out what’s going to happen.

Here’s an example. Right now the smart money appears to be on the US experiencing inflation for at least a few years. On the other hand, the Federal Reserve Bank is serious about bring it down to 2%. Their tool for doing that is a planned series of interest rate hikes. The thinking is that higher rates will cause a recession that will bring down prices. 

Yeah sure, but I’m old enough to remember stagflation which was even more entraining than inflation alone. At least there’s pretty solid employment currently. 

High interest rates are expected to bring even oil prices down. There might be something to that. Oil companies are very hesitant to invest in bring more oil to market. Why invest if the current demand is short term? Of course, it’s easy not to invest, raise prices like crazy, and make a ton of money anyway. 

So what’s a reasonable person to do? In the short and mid term I’m going to bet on inflation. I’m not betting the farm mind you, but that’s my current guess. Let’s see where we stand by the end of the year and then maybe readjust.

Being on a fixed income we can really get pummeled by inflation. My firefighter pension can only be increased by an act of the state legislators. In the last ten years I’ve gotten one 1.5% raise. NH is in no hurry to raise benefits. 

Theoretically I’d profit in a deflationary environment. My guess is that the state would quickly jump into action to reduce pensions. At any rate, while it’s tough to make predictions it’s a good guess that reducing my expenses is the way to go. You situation will probably be different than mine -or not.  

As tough as it is for the average Joe to make long term plans the FED screws up pretty badly too and that’s their their job. Those guys are supposed to know what they are doing. It would not surprise me if they did such a good job cooling the economy that we slip into a depression. Remember, it doesn’t even matter who’s President as the FED is independent. Sometimes it seems like a funny way to run a country’s economy but what do I know?


Thursday, June 9, 2022

Stupid Rules

We are entering a difficult time. If people are going to thrive they will need to do a lot more for themselves. There are a lot of proven ways to save money and to provide for your needs. Planting gardens, doing your own home and auto repairs, installing solar panels, heating with wood -and so on. 

Problems arise when new realities bump against old rules. The worse are home owner association rules.  Want to dig up your front lawn and plant potatoes? Forget about it. Want to do a brake job in your driveway -prohibited. Heck, even things as simple as a clothesline are forbidden. 

State and local laws can be almost as bad. Governments have banned everything from solar electric panels to wood burning stoves. They can even make you mow your lawn. Maybe you want to let the dandelions grow so you could eat them but you can’t even do that. 

So what to you do? If you are in a place with HOA rules probably your best option is to sell and move.   There are states, cities and towns much more permissive for the DIY types. If that doesn’t work for you there’s always the option of bending the rules. What the inspectors don’t see they can’t regulate. That might be as simple as putting a big solid fence around your property. (right Spud?) Get the fence approved and inspected. Then keep the gate shut. What you do behind the fence is your business. Just be aware that some place use drones to inspect properties. 

The trick is find a way to do what needs to be done in spite of stupid rules. I know of people who were banned from using private wells and were forced to tie into the city water system. There was nothing wrong with the wells. The city needed everyone to be connected to municipal water to make it pay. Once the inspectors were gone the home owners did a little creative plumbing. They used a bare minimum of city water -just enough to avoid suspicion. The old well was used for gardens, car washing, and sometimes they even ran most of the house on well water. 

I’ve seen complete solar electric systems mounted on utility trailers. The power trailer would be plugged into the house system just like an auxiliary generator would be. 

It’s important to know the rules and laws in your area. That’s step one in dodging them. Remember, your well being and the well being of your family is at stake here. It seems that no matter how dysfunctional governments get they still have inspectors and enforcers.


Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Deep Cycle Batter Shortage?

I’ve a small solar electric system for power while camping. For storage I use deep cycle marine lead acid batteries. My plan was to move the camping battery to the sailboat and get a brand new battery for camping. We have a camping trip planned for next month and wanted a fresh battery. 

A couple of weeks ago there were deep cycle batteries for sale all over town. Monday they were in short supply. Of course my thought was that there was another supply issue I hadn’t heard about. Finally I was able find one at an auto parts store. He had only two left in stock. 

As it turns out the shortage was a local issue. We had a huge influx of campers and boaters over the long holiday weekend. For a lot of people it was their first trip of the season. Apparently plenty of people don’t test their batteries before traveling. Once they got here they quickly bought out almost everything. 

I’m actually kinda relieved that it was a local issue. It just goes to show that it doesn’t take much to overwhelm our just-in-time system.


Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Next Few Months

It’s going to get interesting in the next few months, Maybe not quite shooting zombies in the street interesting. Maybe. 

Okay, that sounds a bit over the top, but when millions of people run out of coffee they’ll look like zombies. It’s not that I’m expecting coffee to disappear by the end of the summer. What I am preparing for is for food prices to double by then. Double. For real. I’m also preparing for $10/gallon gasoline.

Those are big increases from my earlier expectations. By winter I’d expected $5 gas and maybe 30% more for food. What I had not factored in sufficiently was inflation. We have official inflation numbers but in the real world it already seems like 20 – 30%. That’s for the stuff we actually buy, not the official basket of goods they measure. Another factor will be less food making it to market at the end of the fall. Weather and war are major disruptions. 

A key thing to keep in mind is that about 2/3 of Americans are already living paycheck to paycheck. There is little slack in their budgets already. 

What’s going to give? Obviously people will be eating as cheaply as possible. It’s going to be rough again for restaurants. The financial system is in for a shock. People will charge up their credit cards to put the day of reckoning off into the future. Eventually they won’t be able to make those payments. When times are tough unsecured debt is one of the places to suffer first. The banks will raise interest rates in an attempt to recover that money, only to make matters worse. 

The housing bubble will definitely burst. There are signs of that happening in different markets. Not only that, there were plenty of areas where the real estate bubble never happened in the first place. Some places never recovered from the 2008 crash. 

I’m I sure that’s what the end of summer will look like? Of course not. If I could time things perfectly I’d be rich. These things could happen much later and/or not to the full extent I’m expecting. With any luck at all I’m being pessimistic. I am preparing for the $10 gas and doubling of food prices. If that doesn’t happen to the full extent it will feel like a win.

If it’s worse, at least I’ll be partially prepared. 


Monday, June 6, 2022

It’s a war

What would you say if there were entities looking to subvert your well being? Organizations that ruin your health and destroy your finances? What if the only way you can keep them at bay is spend over $1000/month?  If you don’t pay up they send a bunch of enforcers to harass you on a daily basis. These organizations through massive lobbying efforts are in collusion with the government. 

That’s the experience most Americans have with our medical system. Looks like we are stuck with it too. If we can’t get a better system during a freaking global pandemic it just ain’t gonna happen. 

Considering what’s at stake it makes sense to treat the medical industrial complex as the bad actor it really is. 

There are a huge number of health care workers trying to do their best in broken system. They are victims of a bad system too. How many doctors spend more time dealing with paper work than patient care? How many medical tests are done, not out of medical necessity, but to provide legal protection or to generate income? When hospitals close patient wings to replace them with administration areas you know something is wrong.

Once you accept the medical system is not your friend you can act accordingly. Fighting them head on doesn’t seem to work. We’ve been unable to gather enough political pressure to fight the system directly. Guerrilla tactics are our only recourse. 

Ideally staying as healthy as possible to reduce interaction with the medical system is the best but even perfectly healthy people have to pay huge insurance payments. What if you can’t do that and eat too? Then you take chances. 

If you get sick and need treatment, remember, they can only ruin your credit once. After that they’ve lost a lot of leverage. Never give them all your phone numbers. I only give out my home phone number and then let the answering machine screen all calls. Nobody in officialdom gets my cell number. You also might want to keep assets out of banks where they can be found and attached. Remember, this a fight for your life.


Sunday, June 5, 2022


There’s a lot to be concerned about these days. Take your pick: covid, war, food shortages, fuel prices, inflation in general -the list could go on and on.

While those are all real things to be concerned about, they aren’t my biggest worry. There are things I can do to mitigate the worse effects of most of those things. Some things are tougher than others. The big one for me is not being in an active war zone. 

My main concern is not the problems we face but how society in general is facing them. You might have noticed that a lot of people are acting crazy. Stress is taking its toll. People are snapping. Things that would have been ignored in the past now become the final straw for somebody. Next thing you know someone is shooting up a kid’s birthday party. 

Covid isolation may be a factor. Social bonds are not as strong. Frankly, a lot of us have forgotten how to deal with flesh and blood people. 

To make matters worse there are leaders setting one group against another for their personal gain. Politicians are pitting the little people against each other instead of doing their jobs. I know I have more in common with recent immigrants who have a different religion, skin color, and language than I do with the billionaires who run the country. It’s been my experience that when in a jam that guy who doesn’t look like me will help me out long before our so called leaders will. 

There are some hopeful signs. Some people are forming communities and working together during these troubling times. I also know people who are diagnosed as mentally ill actually pulling it together to deal with problems. During WWII the British worried that mentally ill people would get much worse and that there would be a lot more of them. Maybe it was their “we are all in this together attitude” but those people who they thought would be much worse actually pitched in and did their bit for the war effort. 

So anyway, we are all in this together. Let’s act that way.


Saturday, June 4, 2022

More Coffee Stuff

There’s some rumblings that we’ll have coffee shortages. Weather problems and transportation issues are part of the problem. Anyway . . .

I just placed another $147 coffee order with Deans Beans. I’ve no association with the company outside of being a customer. The only type of coffee I ordered are unroasted green beans. I also like that the coffee is fair trade so the growers can actually make a living. 

The great thing about green beans is that they last for years without losing flavor. The clock only starts running after they are roasted. I usually roast using a cheap hot air popcorn popper. Do some on-line research on which ones work. There’s a lot of bean chaff blowing around so I like to roast outside. When camping I roast coffee in a covered cast iron skillet. There’s a learning curve if you don’t want to make expensive charcoal. 

We brew our coffee in a stove top stainless steel peculator. That works on everything from an induction stovetop to a campfire. We don’t buy filters or a zillion coffee pods so there’s no waste. We also have the coffee grounds for the compost pile. Normally I use and electric coffee grinder, but I also have a good hand crank one. 

The thing is, even without electric power, we can still feed our coffee addiction. In a grid down situation you have enough to deal with. No sense going through coffee withdrawal at the same time.


Friday, June 3, 2022

More Bang for the Buck

You get a much higher return by saving a dollar than earning a dollar. If you save a dollar, you save a dollar. Replacing that dollar with earnings is not so simple. Everybody who’s ever gotten a paycheck knows you only keep a fraction of every dollar earned. Income taxes, both Federal and state, are taken out. Social Security takes a bite. There are other things like health and life insurance that eat into that dollar. 

Never forget the cost of going to work. Transportation, eating out, special clothing, all kinds of expenses come out of your pocket just to go earn that dollar. 

Time put into things like gardens, doing your own house and car repairs, yard work, gathering firewood -all kinds of things save you money. 

Having a home in the country really saves me a ton of money. I’ve solar electric for a good part of my power, trees for firewood, a well instead of a water bill, a septic system, garden, and even hunting and fishing right here. That’s a good part of the reason I’ve been able to live on a fixed income for 29 years. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t save money living in an apartment in the city. It all depends what you have to pay beyond rent. If you pay your own electric bill energy efficient appliances make a big difference. Just switching to an induction cooktop for most cooking can save a bundle. If you have to pay for your own heat eliminating drafts and adding window films help a lot. There are even apartment dwellers who’ve figured out how to add small solar electric systems. Even some tomato plants in planters help. 

Remember, a dollar saved is worth a lot more than a dollar earned.


Thursday, June 2, 2022

Money Lies

There are a lot of self-help books, podcasts, and YouTube channels about how to achieve financial independence. A lot of them have useful information about how to avoid common financial traps. Often frugality is presented as the way to become a millionaire. There’s no doubt that living below your means is a proven method of acquiring wealth. 

What almost all of them gloss over is the fact that there’s no substitute for high income. All the frugal tips in the world won’t help you if your income is too low. Imagine you have a $2000 car bill. Because you didn’t save much of anything from your low paying job you only have $100 to put towards it. Imagine that by living on noodles you were able to save $1000. That still doesn’t fix the car. Lets say you had a good run and did save the $2000. That problem is solved and it’s a good thing too as your rent just doubled. Now you have to live in your car. 

Having a high income doesn’t solve all your problems either. Let’s say you are a professional at a major business in a large city. Your income could be well into the six figures but you won’t necessarily be able to save a ton of money. A professional has to have a certain look and that costs money. Shopping Walmart sales and tying your hair back in a pony tail won’t cut it. Living expenses will be high in the big city. 

We also had a good long run where investments did well. Those days are probably over, at least for a number of years. The financial guys love to point to the years when just about any investment did well. Nobody shows numbers from the Great Depression. 

It’s a sad truth that most of us will not get rich. The best indicator of wealth is having wealthy ancestors. Money doesn’t guarantee happiness. Then again, extreme poverty doesn’t either. 

What we can strive for is a level of income vs expenditures that won’t keep us in a constant state of stress. One thing that has helped is remote work. People are able to take their big city income out to the low cost rural areas. Too bad so many companies want people back in the office now. It’s like the system wants us to be in constant stress. 

You know what people constantly on the edge of financial ruin are called? Normal. 

If you accept that you’ll never be the millionaire next door you can adjust accordingly. Look for something that gives you a decent work/life balance. Be aware of the expenses that come with certain jobs and work locations. Cut yourself some slack when things outside of your control bust the budget. There is no shame in downsizing. Sometimes you have to do the best with the cards you are dealt. 


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Buckle up

My daughter who lives in California called up the other day. She happened to mention that she was excited to find gas for just $6.99/gallon. Most gas stations were charging about fifty cents a gallon more than that. 

You know what they say about California: everything happens there first. 

The European Union just added a sixth round of sanctions against Russia. By the end of the year the EU’s goal is to reduce Russian oil imports by 90%. That is definitely going to affect the markets. Now there’s some speculation the oil will end up in other places. Some of that might happen but Russia has limited options. Its pipelines to China are already maxed out. India is interested in buying oil, but getting it there is iffy. Russia is limited to shallow water ports. Those ports will only allow smaller tankers. To make a long trip that oil has to then be pumped from small tankers into large tankers. This operation has to take place on the open sea. While it can be done, it’s not easy or cheap. 

The Russian boycott is just one factor in the higher world wide prices. General inflation is an issue. Supply chain bottle necks raise prices. Post pandemic demand is a factor. And yes, oil company greed is right up there too. 

Prices are already high enough that demand destruction is taking place. People are cutting down on travel and combining trips. I know I am. Trips are planned now to accomplish as many things as possible. Trips are also being made using the most efficient vehicle we have that will do the job. That’s nothing new for me. Even my little economy cars have solid roof racks to do things like haul lumber from the lumber yard. No truck needed. 

At some point demand destruction will cause a fuel glut in the market and prices will at least stabilize. I hope you aren’t stuck with a huge gas guzzler as your only vehicle. It might have seemed like a good idea when gas was less than $3/gallon. Now, not so much.

Diesel prices are worse. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s a DEF shortage. Newer diesel engines require DEF to run properly. 

My guess is that it would be an unwise plan to expect prices to come down soon. You just might want to get ahead on planning how to do more with less gas. Of course, some people have money to burn. I’m not one of them.