Thursday, October 30, 2014

Winter Preps and Kitten Update

Was a beautiful Fall day yesterday. I was in the middle of making this post this morning when I got unexpectedly called into work so I am running a bit behind now. We are just about completely finished with the Fall hay harvesting now. The field behind the lake you see above is the Western-most  portion of the series of hay fields and we start on the East side and work our way West. Since my Step dad is now officially retired I actually haven't helped him nearly as much this year. Usually we are so pressed for time I do most of the raking but I think this year he has enjoyed doing it mostly by himself. I did help stack and put away about 100 square bales yesterday morning though.

BTW that lake has the biggest Black Catfish I have ever seen stocked in it. One of these days I am going to get back down here and catch some again.

The West Apiary is nestled in right below the bank that holds this lake. I was heading there to finish stage one of the Winter hive preps.

Stage one involves putting the plastic inserts in the screened bottom boards, you can see them laying under my bee jacket above, and placing my Winter inner covers on the hives that I feel are going into Winter without a sufficient honey supply. It's the blue thing with the hole in it. You can see it is a few inches deep, this allows me to put dry sugar in it and then put the top on. This cover also has small entrances you can use to keep moisture from collecting inside the hive. The sugar also sucks a lot of the moisture up as well.

Here's a picture of Saybrook Hive with the cover in place and sugar poured inside the hive. If the bees run low on supplied they will consume the dry sugar. It isn't the best choice but under Winter conditions about the only thing you can do.

I then go around and remove the bottom inserts from the screened bottom boards. I use these because the plastic ones are just not enough to protect the bees in Winter. Also unless a hive is having mite issues no need to to keep the screens open so I leave the wooden inserts in place. This way I can open em up a bit if it gets too hot or close them if they are not needed. This year was cool enough I didn't need to open the bottoms up at all. For Winter however I put the plastic inserts back in above the wooden ones as it helps seal the hives up much better.

Here's the backsides of Ferryland and St. Johns colonies with the plastic inserts in place and then the wooden ones put in to snug the whole bottom down. Together they keep the cold from coming up through the screened bottoms.

The cats were really feeling playful yesterday. Queen Sasha climbed up on my truck in an attempt to keep me from leaving to go take care of the hives. When I tried to make her move she encompassed my hand in a furry grip of teeth and claws and started kicking with her back feet.

The new edition had his first vet visit yesterday too. He weighed in at a whopping 9 ounces. His eyes are beginning to open up as the antibiotic ointment clears the infection away and he has started to eat a bit more. My son has taken over his care and feeding and the little guy has learned to mew at him whenever he is hungry. He has started to prefer the high protein moist food over his little bottle too which makes things a bit easier. I was kinda worried he wasn't going to pull through there for a few days as all he did was sleep but the vet confirmed he was no older than four weeks and was not really ready to be out of the nest yet. Today he met one of the dogs and one of the cats for the first time which perked him up quite a bit to the point he even managed a playful swat at a nose and tail. We made him a little nest with a heating pad right on my son's computer desk and he is adapting very well. Still sleeps 85% of the time but he knows when he is hungry all he has to do is stick his head up and mew and food is delivered for his consumption. When he crawls out of the nest he is placed in the litter pan and has been using it as well.

Total cost to date is running somewhere in the $90.00 range though and my son has already started making hints that maybe this one shouldn't go to a new home. Even if we keep him we are still down two cat spots total for the year so who knows.

Suppose to get a hard freeze tomorrow night and then I can complete step two of the Winter preps for the hives and I will be finished. I can then focus on cleaning the barn some more and finding spots to store all the machines I use for Summer.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

That Time of Year Again

Looks as if the wood burning season is finally going to start off for the Small-Hold once again this year. Suppose to see a low in the 20's by Friday and my guess is there is no way I am going to able to ignore the wife's fire demands any longer.

For the last couple of years I have heated the house exclusively with wood using a commercial model 350 Bryan outside furnace. I also have an inside wood cookstove I can use as well that doesn't require an electrical input to run safely like the furnace does but so far I haven't had to switch to the backup yet.

While the furnace will do it's job, often times too well to be honest, it also has some limitations I am not completely happy with.

For one thing I have never been able to achieve the burn times per load the manufacturer claims is possible. I have gotten close but it requires a very specific mix of  ideally cured hardwoods with the proper bed of coals going in.  The system boasted 12 hour burn times per load and I usually only manage to hit about half that.

I would blame operator error on this fault if there was in fact some way I could actually adjust how I did things but the system is designed so that there is really nothing the operator does except lay the fire out and start it up. Manually adjusting the air flow and all that jazz is taken away by the automatic controls. When I try and over ride the systems automatic controls it just resets itself and tells me to go to hell.

Another limitation is the fact that the unit must have an active electrical line running to it or it will shut itself down. This is a safety measure designed to keep the system from burning itself up in case of a power outage so I guess it isn't a flaw but it does mean I have to have a backup system for it to be useable in a grid down situation. Currently I can run the system off my solar battery bank for four days before needing to fully recharge the batteries.

The most annoying drawback to this furnace however is it's internal thermostat control. Whether you have the system connected to a remote inside thermostat or not does not effect the blower coming on unless the thermostat inside the furnace registers as hot enough. Most of the time this isn't a problem until it gets down into the low teens or less outside with high winds. When that happens this furnace becomes almost useless.

Under those brutal circumstances I can fill the burn chamber and start a fire directly on top of the unit as well and the blower will not kick on automatically for nothing. The air intake control wants to shut the air flow off from the box temperature long before the blower thermostat thinks it is hot enough to kick the blower on. The only thing you can do under those conditions is switch the blower to manual and keep feeding it wood. The wind hitting the side of the unit cools the inside air down before it can enter the blower chamber.

I suppose I shouldn't complain because this little problem never showed itself until last Winter when the temps were so bad. Normally our prevailing winds here are out of the West and I have the unit placed on the East side of the house but last Winter all the bad cold came almost directly out of the North which only aggravated the problem. I easily tripled my wood use last Winter if not more.

Still I guess it was better than being on a waiting list and paying four times the amount for propane some of my neighbors were dealing with last Winter. I used all my wood reserves I had been accumulating for years in one season though and was really stressing the fact it looked as if I was going to run out a couple of times. Had the snow or wet ground kept me out of the fields I easily could have run out of firewood last year by late January or February. At this point last year I easily had what I considered a two and half years supply and by late January I was almost out completely.

I hope this year is a bit more on the mild side.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

WTSHTF I'm Coming to Your Place: I'm Counting on it

I can understand the sentiment for wanting to turn people away if resources are limited. I certainly can understand the concept of being reluctant to help those who had every chance to prepare for whats coming and refused, even laughing in your face while they did so. Believe me I am not immune to this mentality myself.

The older I get the more I realize we all have talents, we all have value and not everybody close to us are going to have the same future time sense of direction us preppers or sustainers have. If having undesirable "friends" showing up at your place after the collapse moves you in a direction that you feel you need to inform them through threats of violence they will not be welcome, maybe you need to evaluate what you call a friend.

Of course much like the line attributed to General Pickett in "Killer Angels" if the people I am speaking of would be undesirable in a post collapse world, well....

"They will not be asked to join the ever decreasing circle of my friends."

Now that being said I realize I have the luxury of having resources to take several people in when the time comes. People who do not have life quite so easy as me currently but they still have valuable skills, work ethic, intelligence and the ultimate of survival skills an innate teamwork mentality.

There are many people out there that simply cannot intellectually fathom what is coming. It isn't even just a sense of denial either or a misplaced need to party, but a simple matter of not being able to connect the dots of an abstract problem. Doesn't mean they would be worthless in a collapse situation, we cannot all be economic or sociological Einsteins seeing with certainty what is coming can we?

I am not berating anyone either. There are many preppers out there who simply do not have the resources to take refugees in, friends or family period. They certainly have the right to turn people away. If I was in that position though I wouldn't have friends who didn't already understand that from the get go.

Those of us with the ability to take others in, yes even those others who do not share our talent for forecasting doom, should by all means plan on doing so.

For instance. I have a friend I have known since childhood. He is dirt poor living in a one room apartment. His wife took him to the cleaners paying child support for a daughter that isn't even his biological offspring. While his wife was cheating on him he put up cameras in his house trying to catch her. He did catch her in the act but also got some footage of the daughter walking around in a towel when no one was home. Now he is a felon and a sex offender on top of being taken to the cleaners. If he loses his job he most likely will be an inmate and then a convict. Yet I can tell you from experience this man would not hurt a fly except in self defense and works like that plow horse from 'Animal Farm". You could hand him a bag of gold and come back a year later and there would be nothing missing.

Is he a prepper? Nope. He cannot see beyond his own problems anyway and has little interest in something he can do nothing about. Yet I would take him here in a heartbeat when TSHTF.

I am simply saying if you have the resources by all means plan on taking people in whether they are preppers right now or not. They may still have value to offer.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Two Lucky B#srds in the Middle of Nowhere

Yesterday of course was wood cutting day. I am still working on those downed Oak trees for my co-worker. Actually I am getting close to being finished. Last week I hauled out all the trunk sections that were too heavy for me to lift by splitting them on-site with my log splitter and I brought the splitter on home after that. What remained were four of the smaller trees with trunk sections 2 foot in diameter or smaller. Just about the maximum size I want to lug around and load by hand over rough ground on a steep hillside.

This is about a 40 mile one way trip so I am loading the truck and trailer down as much as I think I can get away with and I had her loaded DOWN yesterday let me tell you. I actually had to shorten the safety chains on the trailer so they wouldn't drag the ground. The one disadvantage to hauling so much Red Oak is that it is much heavier than a bunch of Elm or other woods.

I pull out on the gravel roads on my way home, take a few turns and come around a tight elbow turn intersection and there's this big red Chevy duelly blocking the road. The driver is standing by his open door and looks kinda surprised to see me. I am assuming he didn't hear me coming because I was moving slow enough to be kinda quiet and wasn't kicking up any dust. So this lowlife scum (and you will know why I call him that here shortly) jumps in his truck and pulls off unto the shoulder to get around me.

Laying there behind his truck in the middle of the road is this little ball of fur you see above.

Now I suppose I should give the guy the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he only stopped to see what it was. That kitten wasn't even dusty from the road yet when I pulled up to it. It could not have been there more than a few minutes and if he didn't dump it there he would have had to have driven over it and then stop. Even if he didn't put the kitten there he still had the same options I had.

1. Either high center the furball and hope it doesn't run under your tires.

2. Get out and move the thing.

3. Take it home.

I guess there is a fourth option but anyway.

The little cat doesn't know it yet but he was more than likely the luckiest kitten in the entire State of Missouri yesterday because I picked the poor, orphaned thing up and put it in the cab of my truck.

I figure what the hell we managed to find homes for 7 kittens this year what's one more.

So we been bottle feeding this kitten. His eyes were so matted he couldn't open them and since we have had to treat other kittens for eye infections we still have medicine for it. Called the vet to see if it was safe for a kitten this young. Made him a cage up with some of that special soft kitten food in case he want's to try solid foods and got the little mini-litter pan back out.

We estimate he is about four weeks old tops. Barely old enough to start using the litter pan unassisted. I was actually wondering if he would make it through the night but my son is playing nursemaid and fed him this morning already. He is now asleep in my son's lap.

So there was the first lucky bastard yesterday. The second was yours truly.

I am hauling this load of wood, pulling the trailer and trying to make sure this kitten doesn't get down around me feet. We are on paved roads now but every time I get the load above 55 MPH I begin weaving from the weight. We are coming down a steep hill when all the tread decides it's time to come off my left trailer tire.

Thank the Lord almighty the tire didn't completely explode or I would have been in a seriously bad position. 30 miles from home without a trailer spare. I would have had too unload the trailer just to unhitch it from the truck then taken the rim to have a new tire put on and come back.

After this close call I am mounting a spare on the trailer. I meant to do it years ago but never could find a rim for it. I am going to look harder now.

If I thought I was weaving before well all that weight on a tire with half it's tread gone made the rest of the trip quite an experience. I think the kitten was looking at me and thinking he had better chances on that gravel road at one point.

We finally limped on in at 35 MPH making a nice rhythmic tune. It also gave the Mrs. time to get the accommodations in order for the kitten.

Man I sure am glad that tire didn't go flat and I didn't hit any sharp rocks on the way in.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Reading - Ben Franklin on Loyalist and Promises

In 1782 while negotiating the Treaty of Paris Ben Franklin wrote a parable expressing his views on Loyalist. Mr. Franklin by all accounts was a very moderate and forgiving negotiator with the English after the war. He was over joyed to renew old friendships that had been interrupted by the war and eager to abandon practices he found unseemly for a Nation even in a time of war like, Privateers. However Mr. Franklin thought very little of American Loyalist, including his own son, and refused any terms for reparations the English government  attempted to add to the treaties of peace.

I find this particular tale interesting because in many ways it applies to our current circumstances of wide spread government largess, public service unions and welfare state. While we no longer have a King making promises we do in fact have a ruling body that is doing so and promises are being made that not only divide us along gender and racial terms but obviously these promises cannot be honored no matter what the outcome.

Lion, King of a certain forest had among his subjects a body of faithful dogs, in principal and affection strongly attached to his person and government, but through whose assistance he had extended his dominions, and had become the terror of his enemies.

Lion, however, influenced by evil counselors, took an aversion to the dogs, condemned them unheard, and ordered his tigers, leopards, and panthers to attack and destroy them.

The dogs petitioned humbly, but their petitions were rejected haughtily; and they were forced to defend themselves, which they did with bravery.

A few among them, of a mongrel race, derived from a mixture with wolves and foxes, corrupted by royal promises of great rewards, deserted the honest dogs and joined their enemies.

The dogs were finally victorious: a treaty of peace was made, in which Lion acknowledged them to be free, and disclaimed all future authority over them.

The mongrels not being permitted to return among them, claimed of the royalists the reward that had been promised.

A council of the beasts was held to consider their demand.

The wolves and foxes agreed unanimously that the demand was just, that royal promises ought to be kept, and that every loyal subject should contribute freely to enable his majesty to fulfill them.

The Horse alone, with a boldness and freedom that became the nobleness of his nature, delivered a contrary opinion.

"The King," Said he, "has been mislead, by bad ministers, to war unjustly upon his faithful subjects. Royal promises, when made to encourage us to act for the public good, should indeed be honorably acquitted; but if to encourage us to betray and destroy each other, they are wicked and void from the beginning. The advisers of such promises, and those who murder in consequence of them, instead of being recompensed, should be severely punished. Consider how greatly our common strength is already diminished by our loss of the dogs, If you enable the King to reward those fratricides, you will establish a precedent that may justify a future tyrant to make like promises; and every example of such an unnatural brute rewarded will give them additional weight. Horses and bulls, as well as dogs, may thus be divided against their own kind, and civil wars produced at pleasure, till we are so weakened that neither remains but abject submission to the will of a despot, who may devour us as he pleases."

The council had sense enough to resolve: that the demand be rejected.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

California Drought, How it May Help Small Farmers in the End

I know there are many subtleties and ins and outs that follow the California drought. I am sure what I have read or know about it barely scratches the surface. Certainly there hasn't been a lot of moisture fall either in rain or snow. We know there is mismanagement and a whole bunch of political bull crap and a general trend towards third world socialism at play as well. There are many much smarter people than I out there to explain it and thousands who live there that can give first hand accounts on exactly what is being done wrong or right.

When it comes to the doom callers who attempt to use California's abundant agricultural output as leverage to demand outside water inputs into the state though I do have an opinion. There is no denying the fact that over the last 100 years or so California has cornered the market on so many agricultural niches that it has become the worlds largest supplier in almost all categories. Fruits, nuts, dairy, rice...etc. etc. But at what cost? It has required massive energy and resource inputs. This entire problem is not just a question of water but all kinds of resources and energy to keep the infrastructure maintained. It has also created a political crisis that was decades in the making but has now spilled out to effect the entire United States in the form of illegal immigration and liberal politics.

With the proper resources in play California had the ideal climate and soil to basically destroy the small farmers across the entire continent. The unique climate and environment of say Wisconsin could no longer compete with the Californian dairy production as long as the resources were available to get the water they needed. Cheap fuel costs gave California an edge over Georgia's Nut producers. The great climate coupled with cheap infrastructure costs lifted California's fruit production above Washington's Apple production. You get the idea.

Did Washington or Wisconsin begin clamoring for some way to move California's mild climate to their states?

This isn't just a lack of moisture issue but one of resources and overall cost. Massive amounts of arable land was taken out of production once California began it's rise to agricultural greatness. How many small farms were gobbled up by the Federal and State governments to create nature preserves or National forests now that the land was not needed? How many mutually beneficial regulations or agreements were suddenly no longer important once California covered the beef production?

The possible answers are almost endless. Even in the private sector. How many strip malls were built because farmland was devalued? How many suburbs became more profitable than a field of corn or an old orchard?

Already I am noticing a much higher demand for local agricultural items and with the rising prices locally produced items are able to compete once again. In the long term a continued drought in California could well be beneficial for small farmers throughout the country and once again strengthen landowner rights as well.

I certainly wouldn't wish a drought on anyone even if it benefited me or a group I was partial to but I can't help wondering if we are seeing something more than just a  drought here as many claim. Perhaps what we are seeing is just another aspect of economic, political and resource decline and a way that nature can once again balance itself.

In the end I think there is much more to California's agricultural boom than just water and we may be seeing the results of these issues coming to a head all at once. More moisture may alleviate  the problem for a few years but I suspect just like our economic issues it will continue to come back over and over again in increasing amounts. If correct this presents some opportunities for Small Farmers to once again begin carving themselves a niche in the overall markets. Personally I think a move to more local production scattered across the USA once again is our best long term move anyway.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!

Tractor Time : Black and White Edition

Because it's artsy and all that don't ya know...

As usual click for a larger image.

Until later. Now back to work.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Something to Pay Attention to

Something very interesting has been developing around the globe the last couple of weeks. I have been watching it closely because depending on who is right or who is wrong we maybe setting ourselves up once again for a perfect economic storm of epic proportions.

The price of oil has been steadily dropping for weeks. Sure it goes down and then back up again but overall it has dropped some $20.00 or more per barrel in slightly over a month. Despite the fact that the lower gas prices are making more low information sheeple very happy this is not necessarily a good sign.

Basically I have read two schools of thought on the issue. The folks over at Zero hedge seem to be more of the opinion that Obummer, Kerry and company have made a deal with the Saudi's to lower the overall oil prices and put the economic squeeze on Russia. Ignoring the fact that it also puts current tight oil plays into the red since it is estimated those plays require a minimum of $85.00 a barrel oil just to break even.

The general theory is that Saudi Arabia and the US feel they have enough wealth to play this loss game for up to a few years which the Russian's do not. This move will severely cripple the Russian economy and may in fact lead to greater level of hostility between the US and Russia.

Another downside if this theory is correct is that while Saudi output is generally so intertwined with it's government it will not effect their short or long term production as it is all taken in stride but N. American tight oil plays become problematic. The US government can give em more tax breaks or whatever and no currently producing plays will close but if a loss goes on too long it will stop new wells from coming on line until the price goes up once again.

The second major theory I been seeing is that the Saudi's are doing it on their own in an attempt to kill off N. American tight oil production and send a message to Russia at the same time. If this theory is true than things may play out much like the first scenario except perhaps there won't be any increase in US Russian hostility. As with the first scenario however N. American tight oil plays take it in the shorts.

I am inclined to go along with the first scenario as ringing more true myself. Especially with Putin's recent rant against the US and Dollar hegemony.

How this effects us as Homesteaders/Preppers/Sustainers is that now maybe the time to seriously think about stocking up on some deep fuel storage. Treat it and hold it in reserve because the end result in either scenario is a quick snap back in prices to possibly much higher levels.

My guess is that regardless of the particulars of the end result we are nearing the edge of another step down soon and I suggest we plan accordingly.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!