Tuesday, March 20, 2018

  I expect to lose electrical service once in a while, I suspect most people do, where I live if it rains we will probably have an interruption. It happened yesterday, the power was out for about 1-1/2 minutes, just long enough to cause the clocks to lose time.
Those power lines are between me and the Mount Diablo. During
hot days they slump to about 30 feet above the pasture, 20 feet
lower than normal, it's a worry some of the time.

There are clocks everywhere, just in the kitchen, there are three prominent ones, on the stove, coffee maker, and the microwave. I don't set them all like I've said numerous times, I have two times in my life, the time the sun is out and the time the sun isn't out. None the less electricity is still a much-needed commodity and when we have to do without even for a short few hours it is an irritant. It's pretty rare to experience an outage for longer than several hours, a few days is fairly common and one lasting for over a week is rare. The Northeastern United States is the area that comes to my mind when I think of long-term outages, most likely because I remember the huge blackout that occurred in the early 1960's. There is another one being experienced now due to the relentless barrage of blizzards they are experiencing this winter. Every area of the country has a different event that could shut down the electrical systems, the East and North have blizzards, the Midwest has Tornadoes as an example. The area I live is threatened by Wildfire and Earthquake, they are just two of the main disasters that may affect us. If an event were to take place lasting one or two days most of us would survive just fine, in fact, many of us have, besides the inconvenience, it is virtually painless.
  Two days is about the limit of supplies we have in our pantries, and refrigerators, if a freezer is in use there is a much longer supply, however fragile the preservation is after a week or so. (Use this Link to learn what the Department of Power and Energy has to say about outages)
  Three days is when we start running into problems, water has run out, cooking is tricky at best, and the food in the refrigerator is starting to go bad. The refrigerator food has to be monitored closely at this point, it's time to start tossing questionable food items in the trash. It would be nice to be able to construct a list of food spoiling on a time basis, but unfortunately, it's a judgment call by the people looking at it. There are some guidelines published by Government agencies but still, it remains a judgment call on our behalf. It is my conviction every food item in the refrigerator should be discarded on the fourth day, that's right just arbitrarily throw it away it's not worth the risk of getting ill. I can't think of a more miserable experience than to suffer food poisoning with no toilet facilities, and that's not the worse of it. Food poisoning can be deadly, I don't feel it's worth the risk. (Link to what the FDA has to say about food safety during a power outage or flood.)
  Then there is the food in the freezer, the one that's part of your refrigerator, if it's like ours there is some stuff that should be tossed as it thaws. Don't discard it unless if it is thawed, keep it as long as it is cold to help retain the temperature in the box if it is thawed do not consume it. Water in freeze proof containers is a good idea to place in the bottom of the freezer, it will become ice blocks and help keep the foods frozen. The ice packs have a second life as well when they thaw the water in them can be consumed. Open the door of the freezer sparingly, it's a judgment call whether to use the food in the fridge first or the food in the freezer. Our plan is to use all of the "leftovers" in the fridge first, they most likely have a shorter life after being cooked. We will all eat well for the first two days or so, hopefully, the frozen food will survive that long, and I think it should. Don't go by my word though, again when it comes to the freshness of food it is each one of our responsibilities to determine its condition and if it is safe to consume. If any food is in dought it must be disposed of. A big cookout may be the answer, BBQ everything in the freezer and invite the neighbors over, they may appreciate it, more than likely they will have items that need to be cooked as well.
I don't have that much in the freezer.

  By the fourth day, most of the refrigerated food will be gone, if not toss it and scrub out the fridge with a water and bleach solution to keep mold away, do the same in the freezer when it is emptied. It is now time to go to the canned, and dry foods in the pantry, rice, beans, oatmeal, and noodles are examples of food that has a long shelf life and will be safe for a power outage lasting for a one week period. All of the canned foods should be safe just rely on the normal day to day precautions we use all of the time. If a can is swelled with the lid bulging out, don't use it, or if the can is corrupted in any way it should not be used. Watch the bread and pastries closely, in warm temperatures with high humidity mold forms rapidly, throw any moldy food in the trash, then immediately dispose of it outdoors. A precaution worth taking at virtually no expense to us outside of our normal food budgets is to keep at least one week's supply of canned and dry foods in the pantry. This is out of the theme of this blog but it is my opinion we should have 3-6 months of canned food stocked, a maximum of 6 months. That's another blog, however.
  Then there is the cooking, there are many ways to accomplish it, but there are some preparations that need to be attended to. There has to be something to create heat, a Bar-B-Que, Campstove, Propane burner, or maybe a Solar Oven, some way to generate heat. That heat source also needs to be able to boil water which I will get into the next section. The refrigerator and freezer are easy to cook, most of the food can be warmed up or cooked on an outdoor grill, creating no dishes. When the pantry foods begin to be used however dishes will be created. The reason I bring up dishes is due to the last issue I want to talk about, it's the last and the most important item to pay attention to.
  Water, unknown to most of us it is the most important and least thought of commodity in our lives. Water is easily obtained when times are good, however, when an emergency like a power outage occurs it is the first to be depleted. It is the first item to be used mainly because we take it for granted many times. For instance, we have three, five-gallon jugs on hand most of the time and at least two cases of bottled water. It's not solely due to our being "prepared", it is mainly because the water piped into our home is not potable, we always have water stored because we have to. In our case 15 gallons plus a few cases of bottled water will supply us for a week, seven days maybe one or two more. In the event, the electrical service is out for longer than seven days a method to purify water must be available. (Use this Link to learn how to purify water)
A cookstove and a pot are the basic tools to satisfy that requirement, boil for 1/2 hour and add a few drops of unscented bleach, OK easy enough, let it cool and we are good to go. There are many pots available for boiling water, from percolating coffee pots to dutch ovens or many other pots and pans in the kitchen cabinets. There are pots available that are employed by building a small fire of twigs in the hollow center of the pot, the sidewall is a jacketed container of about one quart (liter). The fire burns in the center and boils the water in the outer shell, it is fast, efficient, and handy. My preferred method is to pump the water through a filter membrane, either a hand pump, gravity, or a suction straw (for one person) are good choices. The pumps range in price from $20 for a straw style to over $1500.00 for a top of the line stainless steel hand pump. Reverse Osmosis systems equipped with a hand pump are fairly simple and inexpensive to make, the expense depends on how much and what we want to filter out. The final concern about having enough water is, Water, we need a water source, a creek, river, lake, or another large body of water that is not standing still. Do not use stagnant water, flood water, or water used to extinguish a fire, there are bacteria and viruses in some of them that if unknown will remain in the water. That is the reason that no matter where the water is obtained from after filtering it should still be boiled, to kill all the nasty bugs we don't know about, add a few drops of unscented bleach and the water that has been filtered, boiled, and treated with bleach will be fine. Which is why the creation of dishes can become a huge headache, making water for 8-10 hours straight is not my idea of having fun.
In 1906 fire was one of the major results of the Earthquake, now
it may just be water. During the fires the city fire hydrants did run
out of water, all except for one, it's now painted gold and is by the
Dolores Park and Mission.
The cause of a long duration blackout in my area will most likely be an Earthquake, I don't want to trivialize that type of disaster but we have gone two almost three generations in California since the big Earthquake in San Franciso of 1906. One of the biggest problems during and after that event was the fires which followed, many of the people that lived in that time had been raised with no electrical service. Being raised without power then experiencing an event that took it away would on that day most likely have been no big deal, what a contrast between then and now. It would have to be a huge devastating Earthquake to cause a 7 day or longer blackout, but still, I want to be at least set up half way for it. (Link to an example of a dried food kit)
  Thank you for reading and sharing my blog, give some thought to power outages and just how ready you are for one, pay particular attention to your water needs, it's more important than food, or heat.
jacquesandkate  EmergencyKitsPlus.com 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

It's time to prepare for wildfires, prepare zone 1 and zone 2 now, I explain it in this blog.

  The rain continues to fall, saturating the ground making everything green when the sun shows a person can almost hear the grass and weeds grow. I keep looking out the window into the garden to see if my potato tower is doing anything, it isn't, of course, I just put it together last week. I will plant the garden on and after April 1st, (my wife's birthday), the frost is most likely over for the year.(I woke up this morning 3/18/18 to frost, my weather prediction as usual is way off.) The pasture across the river is in its full glory, knee-high grass, and bright green.
It's nice and green now after the rain stops it will turn golden.
  The grass is growing, when the rain stops it doesn't take very long for it to turn brown. I'm not sure but I've heard that's where the motto of California comes from, "The Golden State", all the grass and weeds turn golden during the spring and summer. I was looking at the rain pouring down on the Diablo Range of Mountains west of my house, Mount Diablo is due West. That's the mountain I saw a wildfire started one spring day a few years ago, it started with a puff of smoke. A plume of smoke was not far behind the initial dot, I have never found out what started it. That fire grew rapidly, coursing its way up the side of the mountain it soon covered a good 1/4 of the mountain in my sight. Wildfires travel uphill very quickly, they will go downhill but the progress is much slower, that's what this one did it ran up the hill. It was not a huge fire, but I'm fairly certain if you're on the fire line fighting it small or large can't make a lot of difference. There are no structures on that mountain until the top where the State has tourist buildings. There is also a beacon, the light is lit on December 7 each year and shines until dawn December 8, The Beacon was originally lit in 1928 by Charles Lindberg to commemorate the early days of flying. It was lit each night until December 8, 1941, the day following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Then continued on December 7 after the war.
  During the rain, we hardly think about wildfires but now may be the best time to start making preparations for what we know is unfortunately sure to come. It's cool out and the ground is soft which makes digging and pulling stumps and trees out of the ground a bit easier. We can take a look around the house to either maintain the defensive zone or if one is none existent we can construct one. The defensible zone consist of 2 areas which adjoin one another, I've made a list of some of the tasks we can accomplish starting today:

Zone 1:
   * A space surrounding the house extending 30 feet from any structure, decks, garages, and outbuildings.
   * All vegetation needs to be removed, dead plants, fallen trees, dead trees, and plants all should go.
   * Clean rain gutters, roofs, leaves and dead pine needles and boughs.
   * Tree branches need to be trimmed to be sure there is a 10-foot distance between trees and buildings. Call your electric utility company to trim limbs away from power lines. Don't perform this task yourself, utility companies are responsible for this, they hire experts.
    * All tree branches that are above the roof need to be removed, making especially sure to keep at least a 10-foot distance from a chimney.
    * If there is firewood stacked in this zone, it needs to be moved to zone 2.
    * Clear shrubs and bushes from windows, in the high temperatures created by a wildfire they can appear to explode into a ball of fire.
    * Clean clutter, and all flammables from around and under the decks, stairs, and outbuildings.
    * Make sure there is plenty of space between flammable objects.

Zone 2:
    * A 100-foot clear space that extends out from the house, outbuildings, and all structures.
    * Keep the annual grasses mowed, a maximum height of 4 inches.
    * Trees and bushes need a horizontal spacing of at least 10 feet.
    * The space from the ground to the bottom branches of trees, bushes, and shrubs should be 6 feet at a minimum.
    * Remove all fallen leaves, tree limbs, twigs, and flammable materials, some jurisdictions allow them to a depth of 3 inches. Check with your local fire authorities.

  Vegetation on hills require more spacing than trees, shrubs, and bushes on a flat level surface, the steeper the slope the more spacing needed between them. All branches need to be removed up to at least 6 feet from the ground. Fire will climb the branches of a tree like a ladder, causing larger hotter fires and endangering the firefighting personnel.
  Fire resistant plants can be planted as well, when placed strategically they resist the spread of fire, reducing the threat to the home. Fire resistant landscaping is not very expensive, it can conserve water, and increase the value of your home. Its spring and time to plant if new landscaping is planned now is the time and most fire-resistant plants conserve water.
This is a Link to the Homeowners checklist, How to make your home fire safe.
  Leave the firefighting to the fire department, I have been involved in a lot of fires, airplane, barn fires, and fires on board a ship. My neighbors' houses burned 6 years ago, two burned to the ground, one suffered extensive damage. A phone call roused my wife and I at 2 am, my neighbor ladies voice was on the other end, "get out of your house we have a huge fire!" After dressing and running upstairs to a window I observed a wall of flames which seemed to be over 50 feet high, two houses were totally engulfed in flames, the fire department was still 15 minutes away. When I got to the levee I saw my neighbor lady and her husband with garden hoses on their deck next to the house spraying water on it. She was in her nightgown, wearing flip-flops, standing next to a big pine tree which was 20 feet from the towering flames, I thought she was a goner. I had visions of that tree bursting into a fireball with her suffering the brunt of the burst of flames.
Trees will explode into a fire under the right conditions, stay clear
of them during a fire.

It never happened, the fire department did arrive, we live far from a fire station when they showed up the firefighters made them evacuate to a safer area. There is more to the story, for a month prior to the fire she had been washing that tree down with a water hose, every day. I asked her what in the heck she was doing, her reply was the tree was dropping huge amounts of yellow pollen, and she suffers severe allergies. She found when she washed the stuff off of the tree, house, and deck it lessened her reaction to it. They were lucky, that tree was soaking wet when the fire started, however when it ended the tree was literally cooked and had to be removed several weeks later, it was most likely moments away from catching fire in a spectacular way. The lesson is to leave the firefighting to the firefighters, don't try to extinguish a fire with a garden hose, especially a wildfire, it is not worth the risk.

  The fire season in the Western States will soon be upon us, if we get a jump on preparing for it we will be steps ahead, and if it happens the damage and loss of life will be reduced. It's unfortunate but when the rain stops the drying starts and it takes just a few days to become tinder dry. Link to a wildfire survival kit.
  Thanks for reading and sharing, I'm thinking about the threat, aware enough to begin to prepare, if we start now it can be accomplished in a stressless environment.
jacquesandkate  EmergencyKitsPlus.com

Friday, March 16, 2018

Homesteader, BushCrafter or Survivalist, where do you fit in the scheme of things, here I'll help figure it out with you.

  I was thinking this morning about a song I play on the guitar, "Stuff that works" by the late Texan Guy Clark. He was a singer-songwriter, he played the guitar, he also built them, that's quite a wide spread of talent and knowledge. The song goes on about "stuff" that works and holds up, well-made things that people can and do rely on. An old guitar, an old car, and his favorite shirt are some of the items that work for him. It's a basic song about basic things by a basic guy who just wants stuff to work, and to be reliable.
Just an old guitar.

  That got me to thinking about our self-awareness and self-reliance, what kind of stuff do we rely on every day out of necessity or comfort. Even more than that I began thinking about how we are all supposed to fit into these neat little categories that I believe have been created to enable the news outlets, politicians, and marketers to target us for various reasons. I have thought that being independent was just being reliant upon oneself as much as possible to the point of knowing when help is needed. That to me is self-awareness to know our limitations.
  I read some postings on Reddit, it's a really good platform for readers and thinkers, I especially like the forums that the younger people moderate and contribute to. The comments on some of the postings are imaginative and funny as all get out, these are people between the ages of 20-40, a fairly wide age group, it has reinforced my belief in them. There are forums for everything, some I contribute to, some I don't. I only comment if I have something constructive to add to the conversation, most of the comments and posts from younger people are out of my wheelhouse, even though I do understand what they are talking about an old guy commenting doesn't add anything to the humor.
All except the dark glasses, I like wireframes.

  Some of the forums are in my demographic but confuse me a bit, this is where being categorized comes in. I read several forums on self-reliance, homesteading, bush crafting, and self-awareness, I read one this morning. The one this morning was written well and informative, the man that wrote it was defining what being a "Bush Crafter" is, and he listed several categories under it. It is my opinion every person on earth could identify with one of his definitions. He talks about learning, and using as many skills as a person is able to develop through education or experience, it is a lifestyle. By his definitions I am a bush crafter, to be honest, I've heard the expression before but did not pay it any attention due to my aversion to being classified, but yeh OK I could be classified as a "Bushcrafter" at a certain level.
  I also read a number of blogs and forums on "Homesteading", these people are mostly young families that own some acreage, typically, although there are some that live in urban areas. They normally are all in on gardening, composting, and have some livestock be it chickens or larger animals, almost all heat their homes with wood, some get along without utility services at all. The blogs I read, and the forums I belong to mostly deal with being self-reliant, self-aware, and being as self-supporting as one can be. Mostly the image that is in my mind of a Homesteader is a wholesome down to earth person, or family, that has an intense interest in renewable resources, developing their own resources, and takes great pride in what they have accomplished. They store food by canning, drying, or using methods that need no refrigeration or equipment of any modern kind, like the Bushcrafters they are very innovative.
  I read forums written and visited by "survivalist", there are a lot of levels of being a survivalist, I stay with the people that take environmental, weather, and natural events as the issues to prepare for surviving. This group works on their self-reliance skills as well as stocking and preparing for long periods of time without utilities, and lack of readily available food or water. They are constantly seeking ways to improve their methods of making sure if any of these events take place they will be able to be sustained with their stored supplies. Many of them store rootstock, seeds, and collect and store water. They are also very interested in how to continue to supply their needs into the future, by being prepared, which means lots of gadgets. Useful gadgets, water purification methods, fire starting, cooking equipment, and shelter.
She is ready, even to hide behind a bush.

  Those are three examples, and the fuel of my thoughts for the past few days, if you have noticed they all seem to be very similar, they are all a lifestyle. A lifestyle that I am not sure if it is a learned type of thing or one that comes naturally, I can identify with all three. They all concentrate on self-reliance, and all of them center on family and community. My question is "why is it we have to classify ourselves?" I have never classified myself into any group, however, I can identify with every one of them, what is it that draws us to identify with one of them and declare ourselves a "homesteader", or "prepper?" I think most of us don't even suspect there is a classification for us on the internet, I have lived this way my entire life, I was raised having to "make do" with what we had, which carried on to my adult life. It is a lifestyle for sure, one that is in many ways not even realized by the people living it, it is that ingrained in their lives.
  I read a blog asking the question about being prepared for a natural or man-induced event, and how important is it to have supplies on hand for a week or so. The writer went on to say that he would classify these three categories, as well as people that prepare for the first three days as a "hobby, and hobbyist". He also compared it to being a camper and classified it as a family activity (which is true). There is some truth in it being a hobby, just like a lot of passions it begins as a hobby but quickly turns into a way of life for many people. It becomes a lifestyle because it makes all the sense in the world to be ready for the unknown, and some of the activities like gardening are actually very enjoyable for many people. Once livestock is acquired there is a lot of responsibility that is delivered on the trailer the animals come in on, from that point on they are 100% dependent on the owners. It hardly classifies that as a hobby, it displays an entirely different personality of the livestock owners and their devotion to not only their lifestyle but the animals as well. (I have a very strong feeling of commitment to my worm farm). When animals are taken on as a responsibility it is not to be taken lightly, if a pasture runs out of the water, guess what the steers will leave to find some.
  Another blog I read was written by a homesteader who had chickens, like 50 of them, his intent was to supplement his income with eggs, that would be about 4 dozen a day. To his surprise mostly, it was a gradual buildup to get to this point, his chickens made so much compost he was selling it. He was raising so many vegetables in his garden that he was selling the surplus as well, it started as a hobby that grew into a full-fledged business. It was still growing as he was writing his blog, but that's how it all works, go after your passions and many times it opens unimaginable doors. Even if we don't classify ourselves, some things that come naturally are meant to "work out", how many times have you heard that?
Camping? Maybe a little bit like it, Hobby? At first yes, after a few
years it's a lifestyle.

  Are they all the same? Bushcrafter, Homesteader and Survivalist, there are a few differences but not enough to make one stand out from another. A Homesteader may have to get up at 2 am to check on the livestock where a Bushcrafter may not have to, whereas a Bushcrafter may have to get up at that hour to check his smokehouse, and a survivalist gets up to check his water reclaiming system in a storm. Basically, all are making efforts to be self-reliant and as independent as they can possibly be these three, and they are a lot alike to me, there is a part of each that make up my personification, I bet you are the same, most of us are.
  Thank you for reading and sharing my blog, the lifestyle we have chosen is fun, interesting, and educational, just because we call ourselves by different names or no name at all doesn't mean we differ all that much, the goal remains the same. My goals are zero garbage and making my own fertilizer, and to never run out of coffee, go figure.
jacquesandkate  EmergencyKitsPlus.com

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The self-reliance skills of the animals are being tested during this latest rain, all are building nests, we need to be careful

  We're getting more rain, it's a really good thing, we're still below "normal", I wrote a blog about how misleading it is to refer to rainfall as "normal", actually it's an average. (follow this Link to the blog I wrote about "normal" rain.) I won't go into it, but it does bug me because normal and average rainfall is two completely different measurements. A steady breeze is present, those tall pointed cypress trees bend like they are ready to fold over. Turkeys roost for the night they will sometimes get under the tree they are going to perch in and fly straight up to the top like a slow moving rocket. They are not very good flyers and in their clumsy way, they struggle to gain altitude, reaching the top they grab onto the pointed top and hold on for dear life. That tree bends like a fishing pole with a huge fish on the line, I don't know how the big birds can hold on. Owls, Doves, and Blue Jays all spend a lot of time in those trees, I've always thought of them as being "Italian Cypress" trees. I think of them like that because I saw a documentary when I was very young and that type of tree was everywhere in Italy.
I guess they really are "Italian Cypress" trees. 
  I made this video of a Red Squirrel fooling around in the bay tree next to the house, I was on the deck, (My Office) with the video recording set up waiting for something to happen, well nothing did take place except that squirrel. The squirrel was building a nest for the spring, he and the misses are very busy, him fooling around and her giving him the old "let's get with it, Bob." He spends his time harassing Skunkpuppy, her nemesis, he will get on the deck early in the morning, Skunkpuppy stares him down while he's staring her down. (Video Link) I know the dog will never catch that squirrel so I will let her out, then the show begins. Rabbits, Squirrels, Turkeys, and Peacocks all know what that door sounds like. The sound is their alarm to get the dickens out of Dodge, They are all now building nests, gathering materials, and making all kinds of noises, all of the animals spend all day chasing and avoiding each other, depending which side of the street they are on I guess. There are a lot of Red Squirrels running around, every tree I look at has a nest in them, and man do they fight with each other. Squirrels are not all that coordinated either, 80% of the time they appear to be the flying Mumbetos, but that remaining 20% is something else. Animals fall, they fall out of trees, they run fast and smash into fences, they dive in the wrong holes to escape, and some try to perch in unreachable places. I spend a good amount of time sitting and looking, "if you understand the animals, you will understand humans." my dad would tell me that regularly, and it's true. We have some power lines overhead of our road, a number of them are in very poor condition, insulation hanging down, poles leaning over, that sort of thing. One day I was watching a squirrel across the road being foolish and harassing another squirrel when he took off across the power line. I have seen this squirrel before and I marveled at how clumsy he was, (yeh, was) he started across the line. Wobble Wobble he went, he slipped and did a complete 180-degree spin on the power line, ending in the same position he was before he spun around. He went a few more feet and it happened again, except he fell to the road, it was actually a very curious display. It appeared he bounced on the asphalt, shook himself off and ran into the trees, in the direction he came from. I've seen him attempt to jump from a fence to my apple tree and tumble to the ground as well, I wonder if he was blind in one eye or something. He would take a long time to make up his mind to jump, back up, go forward, chirp, wiggle his tail then do it all over again, 3 or more times. Cat's do the same thing, as I understand it has something to do with their eyesight, but I question that because a Cat is a predator and a squirrel is a prey. Their eye position is different, Cat's have the customary predator's eyes facing forward, and squirrels eves are on the side of their heads, prey style. Squirrels and most other prey can see almost 180 degrees, very nearly directly in back of them, whereas Cats must turn their heads. Now they are all building their nest, (I have gotten so far off the track of what I was writing this blog about I guess I will just continue down this road to see where it leads me.) Tree trimming season is behind us now, we must not take the chance of cutting down limbs when newborns may be in the foliage, so let's wait now until November.
Baby Squirrels,  (photo from youtube.)

The pups fall out of the nest on occasion, even though they are built very sturdy the winds here can still blow them out of the trees. Luckily we have a large number of animal rescue outfits in the area, my neighbor has a  rabbit rescue service, she always has rabbits with her. Two other ladies down the road rescue Cats, and me, I ride my scooter and pick up road kill, someone has to do it, the county is too far away and I don't want to let the animals lay in the road.
  A flock of Candian Honkers has flown in, I've been concerned we may not see any this year, for some reason the ducks, geese, and mudhens are not around this late winter. I have seen several flocks of ducks flying over, just flying over, I don't know what that's all about, and I've seen a large number of Pelican flocks that don't land as well. The Honkers are nesting in two places, both across the river, one to the North about 1/8th of a mile and the other pair about 1/4 mile to the South. There were three Geese, but yesterday I saw four, either the stray mate showed up or the single bird found a new one, they mate for life. I am hopeful they will return every year.
There are three in this picture, a fourth showed up yesterday. They
 are beautiful birds, and loud.
  Like the Salmon have done for the past few years, we are on a tributary so it's illegal to catch Salmon here, but we can certainly see them. In fact, there are two Salmon runs here, one in the fall and another in the Spring which will start in just a few weeks. I get up early and at the same time each morning the bait fish head South East in the slough, but not when it's cloudy. It appears the tide and the sun drive the baitfish, which arouse the bigger fish, which draws in the seabirds, and the Sea Lions, once all that activity begins it can get pretty noisy around here. The Sea Lions follow the migrating fish from the ocean outside the Golden Gate, Salmon, Stripers, and the big Sturgeon migrate to the calmer fresh water. Sea Lions like Catfish, I watch them sometimes for hours diving and coming up with them, sometimes they catch a fish that is so enormous I wonder how they can get it down the hatch. Size does not matter to the larger Seals, I've seen them catch stripers that appear to weigh 20 pounds or more, they slap them around and slurp right down they go.
  I took a video of another Egret, this one in the middle of the slough of a vegetation raft, doing what they do, standing motionless for a very long time. I started my video recorder up and let it go, it was a good thing, I caught a Mudhen landing right behind it, (Link to that very windy video) I am hopeful this is the beginning of a larger flock populating our little stretch of the Delta. I like the Coots, they are like real live Minions, sometimes they number in the thousands moving on the water much like those huge flocks of starlings (I think they are Starlings) moving as one through the air.
American Mudhens, Coots, I wonder where the name Coot came
 I have a tendency to call them Starlins', kind of a slang, I heard a Texan say it once with his Texas drawl and I thought that's exactly how it should be pronounced, after all, they are invasive species.
  I see another Egret across the river, standing like a statue, motionless, they remind me of the U2 spy aircraft that would land on the flight deck of the ship I was on. They, like the Egrets, did not need much room to take off, in a breeze they are able to go aloft almost vertically, it's really cool looking. I'm not sure where the Egrets nest, most likely on the top of some huge tree somewhere, I wonder if they are a breed of birds that roost in large numbers on one of the islands here.
  Let's all be careful this time of year with the newborns popping up everywhere, it's fun to watch the new babies learning all of their self-reliance skills, theirs are a matter of life and death. We will see the Coyotes move in, most likely just after the fox do, as the population of rabbits increases they will be noticed by the larger predators. I have not seen a Mountain Lion around here, I often wonder if any are on one of the remote islands, the chance of there being one is most likely very remote. There are no large mammals like deer on most of them, there were some with Tule Elk as occupants, but I haven't heard of them in a long time.
  Then there are the Cormorants, they will wait for another day, they are always here along with the morning Doves and our resident Barn Owls.
  Thank you for reading and sharing, next time you are out and about take a few minutes to sit down in the silence and look around, every time I do I see something totally new to me, something I've never seen before. It could be anything from ants doing some weird deed, or as large as a Coyote, or Mountain Lion, keep the camera handy. Thanks again!
jacquesandkate  EmergencyKitsPlus.com

Monday, March 12, 2018

Gardening, I built a Potato tower today, I have started planting the vegetables and I'm almost at zero garbage!

  I started the day by setting all of the clocks forward, except the kitchen stove, it's going wacky, all the lights flash off and on, every beeper on it sounds off, and it on occasion just flat does not work. Today is one of those days, we discovered the problem on Thanksgiving, yep, then miraculously it started to work just as the deadline for putting the bird in arrived. Who needs another clock anyway, it seems like everywhere I look is a clock, that may be what killed the wristwatch. We will live until fall with the wrong time on the stove, it's not an important appliance, like the coffee maker, so it doesn't matter much. (to me)
  I sat in the fog this morning outside, it was kind of cold, 45 degrees is cold here, I'm still learning how to video so I set the camera up and let er' roll. There was nothing going on around the water, I could hear birds, frogs, and cows, but seeing them was a different story. I gathered up all my stuff and headed to the garden, I had a potato tower to build.
  I have had the wire fence cylinder made since October, I've been waiting for the right time to start the spuds, this is my first try at growing them in straw. I made a video of it, and I must say it ended up pretty good, I'd appreciate your input here is the Link. I bought a bale of straw, two actually, last November one was intended for the container garden, I was running low on leaves. The other was designated for a potato tower, I found the fencing, it was a good piece of about 50 feet long, it was on the side of the road someone was cleaning their garage or something. It is customary on the island to set items on the side of the road if a person wishes to give it away. There is a lot of stuff that is still good, but not worth selling whether it is paint stained, has a broken wheel, or some other minor problem. However the biggest problem is most of it is still "stuff", and I already have plenty of it around here.
The first tier bottom straw

The first tier straw, compost, and seed potatoes
  The wire fencing, we called it at one time "hog wire", I'm not sure if that term is still in use, has 2"x3" squares, larger would be better. Better for me, I have extra large hands they will not fit through a small hole like that, 3x4, 3x3, or even 4x4 would fit me better, but I use what I can get. The goal is to grow vegetables for less than what they can be purchased for, in this case, I have $11.00 invested in the straw bale. To break even I will have to harvest about 20 pounds of spuds so it will be touchy if it is cost effective. I can tell you right now if I were to include labor of myself and those who help me that 20 pounds of spuds would have to be in the $50 range, there's a lot to be said for raising vegetables in large quantities.
  I chose the spot for the straw tower where I plan on planting my new peach tree, that's the one I am growing from a pit, actually two pits, two trees came up so I did what anyone would do, I laced them together. It will grow with a twisted trunk, they wind around one another. The wire cylinder is about 4 feet high and a 2-foot diameter, I rolled it around then wired the ends together with the extra wire I left when I cut the fencing to size.
The finished Potato tower, 4'x2' around.

After placing the cage I placed 8 inches of straw on the bottom, then I made a slight depression and placed a layer of potting soil one inch deep and 3 inches from the edge of the straw. I leveled the soil evenly and placed the potatoes with the cut end down 6 inches from the edge of the wire cylinder. I bought 6 yards of compost when we built the container garden boxes, my grandson's actually did almost the entire construction. We built them and spaced them to allow me access from my disability scooter, yeh, I can't walk really well anymore. Part of being self-reliant is to not fret over what I am no longer able to do, but celebrate the things I can do, so I'm doing a lot of stuff that may seem odd to some people. But it sure is fun when people holler out the car window "Hey Jacques how're the worms doing?" or some other crazy project I have going.
  Layers of straw, compost, potatoes, and more straw dampen the straw the day before that will keep the newly planted potatoes watered, the warm weather will encourage the growth. Potatoes use a lot of water, they will show the vines through the sides, they will flower when the flowers show stop watering them and let the vines dry out.
The 5th and final set of Potatoes, I placed more straw on top of
these, then another nest of compost and finally I planted beets
and placed another 8" of straw over the top. 

They can stay in the "ground" for several weeks prior to harvest, I don't have the patience for that, when the vines dry out I dig them out. Depending on the weather it should take between 6 and 8 weeks for them to mature for harvesting, I suspect every gardener is like me, I will check them every day. I put five sets of potatoes in the column, I actually ran out of potatoes otherwise I would have planted another tier, I chose to plant beets in the last layer, everyone likes beets. I thought about planting watermelons in the bottom tier, then potatoes the rest of the way up, somehow that did not sound or feel like a successfully filled endeavor. I did, however, plant cantaloupe in one of my leaf towers, I have not heard of or seen anyone try that, although I am sure someone somewhere has, original ideas are extremely rare. I have a lot of faith in growing the potatoes, I have very little in growing the cantaloupe in the leaf tower, but hey I think it's worth a shot. Someone will drive by and holler "Hey Jacques hows the cantaloupe doing?" hardy har har.  I will report in 8 weeks or sooner.
  We are nearly at zero garbage, food waste that is, plastics, and screen printed cardboard are next, I have some ideas. My wife told me she had read about people making mattresses for homeless people out of empty water bottles, hmm, soft but crunchy. I found a guy on the internet who turned his plastic bottles into seed starting planters, they are actually pretty neat, I made one and it works great, but holy cow I'd have to plant hundreds of seeds. I'd like your suggestions on how to deal with plastic water bottles please leave them in the comments.
  The cardboard is a horse of a different color, the ink on the silkscreened boxes will kill my worms, even if I strip the colored outer layer away the residue left on the rest of it may kill them as well. I don't know if the ink will compromise my compost or not, although one compost bin I have is filled with worms as well. I am thinking of getting a "tumbler" type of composter, there is one in an abandoned lot down the road, I won't take it without talking to the past owner when I see her. Even at that, I'm not sure it will be safe in the garden, it would be a "hot" compost pile so I'm thinking maybe the heat would make the ink harmless. There are outfits that compost cardboard only, I'm thinking they must combine all of it into one pile to separate it would eat up their profit.
Cardboard composting is big business.

  I'm not so concerned with the meat, bones, grease, and pet scat The scat can be buried away from the garden, we don't eat very much red meat, due to my health will not tolerate it, it's a long story. I know we're not supposed to do it but I set Turkey carcasses out for the raccoons, as well as all the bones from ribs and the like. The reason I don't feed the meat, bones, and greases to the worms is due to the development of pathogens, it's not a given but it is possible, I use the worm castings as fertilizer on my vegetables, castings are after all manure, very rich in natural organic nitrogen.
  Manure is not all that bad to feed worms in itself, horse, cow, rabbit, and goat manure are fine because they don't eat meat. Chicken manure is not advisable to use, chickens have a digestive system that does not digest well, there is a lot of nutritional value in it, but not for worms. There are vermiculture toilets, under the correct conditions they are great. I do not feed my worms manure of any kind, domesticated animals are treated with "de-worming" medication. I knew a man that raised worms in Mariposa, he raised them on horse manure and he had well over a million of them. His neighbor gave him free of charge all the horse manure he could use, one day all of his worms had died. Now, worms are almost 99% water, so it's not like there were little tiny bodies laying all over the place, they decompose within hours and become one with the bedding. The de-worming medication killed all of his worms, it probably took about 6 hours for it to take place.
  Citrus, Onions, Peppers, and Garlic are all not good worm food, they will decompose in the compost pile well enough, so these I am also not really worried about.
This is the stuff a gardeners dreams are made of.

  I started the garden, Acorn squash, onions, zucchini, artichokes, and cucumber seeds are all in, I am expecting big things this year. We have another week until we might be able to plant peppers, and tomatoes, but hey I got the Potatoes planted today! hooray!
  Thank you for reading and sharing my blog, watch my video through the link above and you will see what the old guy looks and sounds like, plus you may get a laugh or two. Thanks again I appreciate you reading this.
jacquesandkate  EmergencyKitsPlus.com

Saturday, March 10, 2018

It's upon us again! Just to bewilder some of us less enlightened ones time expires on Saturday, so does my sea salt.

  There are a  lot of things I don't understand about this world, not only just our world but the entire universe, sometimes it seems like a huge question mark. One of those is expiration dates, of products, well not just products but everything, I wonder if it's a human desire to control our environment, or if it's actually a desire to understand (or control) what in the heck is going on in and around our world. Expiration dates came to my wandering mind when I read the bottle of Himalayan Sea Salt.
A photo of a Himalayan salt mine, it's used not only for health
issues but lamps are made from them as well. 

I read that it does wonders for people that suffer from allergies, which I do, my breathing system spends a great deal of time giving me problems. I read on the internet to use the pink salt versus the normal sea salt in my nasal rinse due to it is far superior to regular sea salt. My wife bought some for me, I used it, and it did indeed perform better than the normal everyday sea salt. I read the bottle the stuff came in and low and behold I had a hard time believing what I read, it had an expiration date on it. December 2019, the salt is not good after that date, I am shocked! OK, not so much shocked as humored by it, how in the world can salt expire? Salt takes a long time to form underground, if we boil sea salt it doesn't take very long, but when an ocean evaporates and leaves behind the minerals, we may be talking hundreds if not hundreds of thousands of years. Huge salt deposits are beneath the ground, most widely known is the area around Salt Lake City Utah, where large salt mines are located. To place an expiration date on salt is to be the same as an expiration date on granite, it's a mineral, how can it expire? I won't be tossing it in the trash if I exceed the date, to me, it's not a rational thought, which brings me to another expiration date which doesn't make sense, time. (Follow this Link for information on expiration dates.)
  Time, has an expiration date, is that what I'm claiming? Yes, in fact, it expires this weekend, daylight savings time expires, or starts however it works. Spring forward and fall back, it's a tradition I have never understood, I know what the intent is. That intent is to "save" daylight, we move the clock to accommodate our desire to control time. We move an hour from the morning to the evening for the summer, then we move one hour from the evening to the morning during the winter.
I'm so sorry Ben, we're going to have to move you forward an hour.
England is the same country that discovered modern navigation
methods, the British are actually the keepers of time on Earth.

Some people (experts no dought) claim it saves electricity, I don't know, I don't remember ever going into a building during the day when all of the lights are out. My wife has a saying I repeat all of the time, "a babies world is only as big as the room she's in." I repeat it here because my sentence about never being in a building during the day when all the lights are out is a small world statement maybe. I don't know if there are some office buildings that do not use lights during the summer, With all of the electronic equipment, Televisions, Air Conditioning, and Swimming pool pumps running all day long, how in the world can the savings on electric lighting be determined? Maybe it does save electricity, I don't know and I don't really think the "experts" know as well, somewhere, somehow, someone must be making money from changing the time. Near the equator the 24 hour day is essentially equal, changing the time would accomplish nothing, so it's not changed, ever. As we travel North the nights become longer in winter, the days are shorter, moving an hour to the morning means we have more daylight for our morning commute. As I remember my days in the North, we left for school in the dark, and returned in the dark, or near dark, it doesn't make much sense to me. If someone reading this can explain the logic behind changing our clocks please leave it in the comments. Now during the summer months from Memorial Day to Labor Day is the tourist season, and the time of year most people spend time outdoors. I live in one of those places people flock to vacation, weekend camping, and locals every day using the rivers. I wonder how many people pay attention to the clock closely enough to determine how much daylight savings actually adds to their experience.
  I realize the clock controls our work a day lives, everything we do depends on our being on time. During the early days of the railroads, timepieces were the most important part of the rail system, not only for deliveries but for safety as well. If the Engineers did not all have their timepieces synchronized with one another, disaster could and often was the final product. The only way in the days of the sailing ships to know their location was through the use of a timepiece and a Sextant, the world may never have been traveled if navigation techniques were never discovered. In fact, a watchmaker is the person responsible for discovering navigation techniques still in use today. Then there are people in my situation, I don't work, everything I have to do (mostly) can wait until tomorrow, and we know tomorrow never comes. I need to know what time it is once a month for my normal monthly doctor's visit, my other doctor's visit isn't even dictated by time, I show up whenever I want. For a person in my situation there are only two times of day, the time the sun is shining, and the time the sun is not shining, there is no time. There is no time that is dependent on daylight savings time especially, but if I wanted to make sure the world was still round, I would need the exact time and distance. It's already been established that the world is not flat so I won't need time for that task either.
It would be harder to prove the Earth is flat than it is to prove it
is round.

  Florida has recently (today March 9, 2018) passed a law to not observe daylight savings time, (Link) I wouldn't mind that, it would have no effect on me at all. I can't think of a single way moving an hour around enhances my existence, can you? One way may be when taking a road trip and time is of the essence, if our trip is dictated by the clock we may have an extra hour of driving or sightseeing time. I really don't understand it, and a big part of that is if I want another hour of sunlight during the day, why not just get out of bed an hour earlier? I'm OK with changing the clocks, every year I have the same thoughts about it, however, I have found there is not always a good reason for everything that takes place, I place daylight savings into that category, I just cannot figure out why we do it.
  Thank you for reading and sharing, if you can lift the fog out of my head and explain to me the advantage in daylight savings time please leave a comment. As I said I don't believe time or salt has an expiration date.
jacquesandkate  EmergencyKitsPlus.com

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Early spring storms test our self-reliance and self-awareness, here's an event, not an accident that tested mine.

  The March rain is really something when they start some of the time they just don't stop. It's partly due to the high-pressure balloon stationed offshore outside the Golden Gate, it blocks the jet stream and forces the storms North or South. (I know very little about weather.) We get soggy, once in a while, the rainstorms will be close to those experienced in the Midwest and Eastern parts of the U.S. One of the most prevalent hazards of these episodes is unexpected blizzards in the Sierra's, the ski slopes stay open longer, or they re-open. Such is the case this year, 2018, many people headed for the mountains when the storms were on their way.
The forebay is much like this one, this is not the place our camp was.

Skiing accidents have taken the lives of several people in the first week after the events started, an avalanche buried one poor guy, happily, he was rescued. I watched the report on the evening news, he looked pretty banged up, and I would bet his dreams will be based on that experience for a long while. It seems like being in an avalanche is a fate of inches, if I was one minute later, one minute earlier, you know that sort of thing, that's why we call them "accidents". A few years ago I started to relate to accidents as "events", it's just a play with words but I changed the wording for a specific reason. The reason is I am unsure just by reading or watching the articles and news reports if it is an accident because I don't really know what happened and it's too easy to blame the victims. Even if it's only in my mind, sometimes I will jump right to judge such as "well if they woulda, shoulda, coulda, then the end results would be different. Well maybe, but that kind of reasoning does not fit anywhere in any conversation if a person slams into a tree while skiing how can there be "fault"? The nature of the mountains is unpredictability, the weather is an always present entity and predicting it from a campsite is very important. (Link to CDC's take on traveling to the mountains, anytime.)
  In my younger days I backpacked a lot in the Sierra's, generally, my son and I would backpack in the area between the Sequoia National Forest and Yosemite, there is a huge amount of territory up there that few people visit. The John Muir Trail runs through the heart of the backwoods country, mostly along the ridges and down into some canyons. I was with a friend on the top of "Iron Mountain", an unknown spot where it is possible to see from the border of the Sequoias to the south all the way to the border of Yosemite to the north. Also visible is the Eastern Slope heading down into the California Desert and towards Nevada. Mount Crowley is visible from there, it's a volcano that has been dormant for the past few hundred years but as everything else, it's a disaster waiting to happen.
This is the view from Iron Mountain, Mount Crowley is way off in
the center of the photo.

OK, just like every other natural phenomenon it may happen today, or maybe never, who knows, I struggle with the English language and weather prediction, there is no way I can predict a volcano eruption. There are many things up there that are "undiscovered" or assumed to be extinct, such as the wolf. This is the same trip my friend and I saw a wolf, I know they are extinct in California officially. But really they are not, we saw one, I suspect the same is true of Grizzly Bears further North in the state, but they are extinct as well here. There are places in the Sierra's no one has ever set foot on, not even the Native Americans, it is a wild unpredictable part of the world, as well as potentially dangerous.
  It's this time of year, March-April normally, when the camping and hiking bug grabs hold of me, even though I am unable to hike any longer I still would like to go. Memories return instead and I will muse about past trips and some of the experiences I had, most very enjoyable, one or two a little miserable. Mostly the misery comes from forgetting stuff, like matches, or food, once in a while mechanical issues but mostly misery is spiced with the weather. Such was the case on one trip, I was with my son and daughters in the early spring we decided to camp on the Kaiser Pass, heading up to Lake Edison, our goal was about 20 miles closer at a place we called the "forebay". The forebay is a surge pond, I don't know if it is man-made or a natural lake, it is used in conjunction with a multitude of hydro-electric projects embedded in the streams flowing from Edison down the mountain to Wishon Lake, many miles distant.
  It was early spring or late winter and the weather was perfect to spend camping, there was still some snow on the sides of the logging road but it wasn't the 10-foot sheer walls along the road cut by the snowplows. Further up the mountain, there was deep snow, which was our reason to stop before we got to it, we would stay the weekend and then go back down to Fresno where we lived. (Link to what to do after a storm warning in the mountains.) We pitched our tent on a high hill, the kids wanted to be nearer to the water until I explained the danger if we were to experience a spring storm and flash flood. Our tent was in a good spot, and for once I predicted the weather accurately or did I, it may have just been good "boy scout" training. We were in a grove of trees high on a hill overlooking the small lake, sheltered from the wind due to the high slopes leading down to the water. In the middle of the night the sky opened up, I don't know if it snowed, but it sure did rain, thunder, and lightning, the tent stayed dry inside but it still had that "musky" smell which I find, well, yucky. We were able to hear the wind rushing overhead, the rain pounding down, and running off the sides of the tent. The rain went on for several hours, we were awake, it is never known what may happen in those situations and I wanted to be ready to head out. In the mountains, way back on an old logging road during a hard rainstorm makes leaving difficult at best, it's a last resort. I'm of the mind it's always best to allow most things to run their course, I'm back to the 80-20 rule again, 80% of everything never happens. The rain stopped and we slept for a while, I don't recall how long, we exited the tent to a clear, blue sky filled day, then looking towards the lake we saw an abandoned tent.
This is not a fun-filled activity.

The tent was almost to the top covered in water, ice chest, blankets, and all the items we take on a camping trip were floating in what was dry when we arrived the night before and overnight was transformed into a pond. The water was about a 100-foot diameter, and it was deep, the exact spot the kids wanted to pitch the tent, it was indeed a bad spot. The people arrived after we did and apparently set up camp in the dark, they most likely did not realize where they were, or more likely that is where they always camped. This was one of those "events", it could not be an accident or an "on purpose", it was an unintentional event, it happens to all of us. We did not see the people, it appeared they left in a hurry, all of their stuff was scattered all over, in the mountains with the granite bedrock water takes a long time to soak into the ground. The pond most likely stayed there for a month, there was most likely no salvage of their equipment, they most likely did not know we were above their camp about 100 yards. They probably would have asked for help if they had seen us, which I am always more than happy to accommodate people in distress.
  We sometimes forget ourselves when performing routine tasks, we form habits and take an indifferent attitude assuming everything will be alright, because face it, most of the time it is. But in our never-ending quest to rely on ourselves when times get tough we may think we have everything under control because most of the time we do. I had a car fall off of a jack once, even though I thought, "man this ground sure is soft, oh heck it'll be alright" and it wasn't. Like the people in the flooded camp, it's indifference and the assumption it will be OK, when in fact that one in one thousand chance it is not.
  Such may have been the case with the flooded out campers, perhaps they had the attitude of complacency, this is where we always pitch our tent, it'll be fine. Or the skiers who have not skied for several months, well the last time I went out I could do certain maneuvers and there is no reason to think right now is any different. Two years ago we put the spare tire on our big truck, my wife and I both agreed that new tires were involved in our near future, two years later she had a blowout. The tire blew in the worst spot in the Bay Area, at the worst time, and the vehicle was full of her and her friends show costumes. We procrastinated to the point of it being life-endangering, I think we all do it to some extent.
A piece of cake, I used to do this ALL the time. (No I did not)

  Thank you for reading and sharing, we can study, plan, write our plans down, organize and perform all sorts of due diligence, but sometimes we can not predict the weather. Complacency can be compared to the Great San Francisco Earthquake, very few people remain alive that experienced that event, but we still expect it to happen tomorrow, or not. Thanks again, it's a big part of being self-reliant, accepting the fact we are all human, capable of making mistakes, and being caught in the middle of an event.

jacquesandkate  EmergencyKitsPlus.com