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Thursday, October 19, 2017

The never ending well project

I put in a long day on the well project. When my buddy came over we happened to flush a lot of red gravel out of that section.. That got me thinking. The red gravel is only at the top two thirds of the hill. That must mean the break is in that part. Earlier I suspected the break might be where I had to spice it years ago, but the soil is much darker in that section and none was in the line.

Long story short, I went into town and picked up 100 feet of ½ PEX plastic pipe. I stuffed as much of it as could down the water line. I'm guessing it went about 40 feet or so. Measuring the remaining line will tell me how far down the blockage is.

Then it's a matter of taking a tape measure and figuring out how far down the hill the break is. That's where the line break should be located and the place to dig. If I'm lucky I'll be able to cut out the bad section and splice in the ½ inch PEX.

½ inch line cuts down the flow some, but it's enough. In fact, my temporary surface line is just ½ inch hose. Still has enough volume for showers and laundry.

The fun continues. By the way, all the suggestions and comments have been helpful. Thanks.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Are you looking forward to the collapse?

Someone recently asked me that. In short, heck no. Just because I have a few more preps than most people doesn't mean I want it to happen. For goodness sake, I'm 59 and fairly comfortable. I've figured out how to get by in the world we have. I could probably go a long ways in a fast collapse situation, but that would be by virtue of my isolation and keeping my head down. That, and the ability to live on bugs and tree bark if necessary.

It might have been more interesting back when I was 18 and full of myself. Of course, I'd probably have ended up dead within six months -or some kind of primitive warlord. That's how things shake out in a fast collapse situation. The most likely outcome would have been dead. Young idealist people who take up arms don't usually turn out well.

For large segments of the population a slow collapse is underway. The middle class is running faster just to stay in place. Young people are really getting the short end of the stick. Working low wage jobs while carrying a large student debt is not sustainable. They have little investment in the system. Heck, if they organized they could crash the financial situation by not paying their student loans all at once.

Income disparity is very bad right now. When 8 people have more wealth that the poorest 4 billion, something is broken. It's been getting worse. Fewer and fewer people will continue to control more and more -if this goes on.

There are some serious challenges, economic, environmental, energy issues, disease, and so on. In a lot of sectors we are already in a slow collapse. It's not everywhere and everybody, but problems have a way of worsening each other.

Is there no hope? Actually, there are some positive signs. People are fighting the good fight, searching for patches and fixes. Solutions tend to be incremental over time and aren't particularly sexy. Often they aren't very satisfying, but as long as they are good enough, we keep on keeping on. Gradual change over a long period of time is change I can believe in.

While I have preps, I'm hoping to only need them for fairly normal disruptions, things like storms and financial set backs. While the whole world crashing and burning is exciting, I'd rather have a nice cup of coffee and a good book.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Day of Discovery

My friend came up to help me with my water line issues Monday afternoon. He brought a pressure washer. Together we were able to really clean out the supply line. After over forty years there was plenty of grit built up in the line.

It went a lot quicker with two. Also helps that my friend is 20 years younger than me and in good shape.

We never did restore the full pressure to the line. Thanks to there being two of us, he was able to observe the well while I was watching the system in the basement. I saw little build up of water pressure in the house system. He was able to notice that even though I wasn't getting much water, the well steadily dropped. Working alone I never noticed that as the well had time to recover by the time I got back to it.

That tells me there's definitely a leak somewhere in the line. The next step involves pick and shovel work. I know just where I'm going to start too.

Years ago there was a shallow well pump house about 15 feet from the well. The surface pump would push the water up the hill. That worked fine when the place was a seasonal cottage. In the winter the pump house had to be heated to keep everything flowing. Back then the power went out all the time, so the well pump was constantly in danger of freezing.

That shallow well pump was replaced with a submersible pump. The line in the pump house had a splice put in it and buried. I'm going to dig up that splice. The connectors are usually the weak point in a water line.

This is where it gets interesting. If I find the problem is with the connectors, they get replaced; job done. If that's not the problem I'll take the line apart so I can test both sides. If the leak shows up in the 15 foot section, we'll dig that up and replace it. If the problem is in the 50 foot long section, then I move to plan “C.”

I'm not going to dig up 50 feet of line with cold weather nipping at my heels. However, today we discovered that we can fish a smaller line down the pipe, as long as there are no splices. We pushed a good 30 feet of line down the pipe as a test. Getting another 20 feet or so down the line looks doable. I'd have to buy a longer line, but that sure beats digging trenches in the snow. I would not have full volume, but it should work at least as well as the surface line I'm using now. That would get me though the cold weather.

All in all, while we didn't solve the problem, progress was made. I think we figured out how to proceed. My buddy will be joining me again when the day warms up a bit. During the cold hours of the morning I'm going into town to get more parts.

At least I know more than when I started.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Another beautiful day on the water

It started out simple enough. My lovely wife and I went down to the lake to do some work on the sailboat. We did get a few things done.

Then the wind kicked up and we just had to lift anchor. The rest of the afternoon was spent sailing. We didn't bother with the jib, only the mainsail. The wind was very uneven. Sometimes there was very little wind and we were barely poking along. Then a gust would blow down from the mountains and almost bury the rain in the water. Good fun.

The leaves are past peak, but temperatures were up in the 70s. Pretty amazing for the middle of October.

I tried to capture this eagle being harassed by a crow. The phone isn't the best of cameras. My lovely wife was at the helm and we were riding one of those mountain gusts while quickly running out of lake. We had the place to ourselves.

This evening there's a chance of 80 mph gusts in the mountains. Interesting weather. As I write this it's starting to sound like a freight train out there.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Big Picture

We like to think of progress moving in a straight line. Humans have gone from living in caves to sending probes to explore the solar system. Our grunts and gestures evolved into literature and song. Crude ideas dimly imagined grew into philosophy and science.

The problem with all that is the fact it ain't true. Sure, in general we've advanced in many areas, but it hasn't been a straight line. Even the ancient Greeks went through periods of decline where few could read or write. The same thing happened to the Egyptians.

At the end of the Bronze Age civilizations collapsed. There were invasions from the mysterious Sea Peoples, of which little is known. Populations crashed, trade networks failed, advanced government functions ceased.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
-W. B Yeats

Things really could fall apart again. We've some pretty good examples what that looks like. Puerto Rico and a number of Caribbean Islands are excellent examples. However, as bad as things are there, they are lucky. The outside world is intact and aid can be sent in.

Imagine much bigger disasters. The Yellowstone volcano, when it blows will affect most of North America. Recently I was reading where a nuclear EMP could shut down America's grid and that would eventually kill 90% of the population. A huge coronal mass ejection from the sun could do even more widespread damage.

The list could go on and on. The big question is what are we going to do about it? Governments could get their act together and make our civilization more resilient. There are fixes for many known potential disasters. Our extremely vulnerable grid could be hardened for example. It's not magic and while costly, is a lot less costly than everything going dark. Actually, protecting their populations against huge dangers are what governments should be doing. It's not something that can be done on a local or personal level.

We've fixed big problems in the past. I'm old enough to remember horrible air and water pollution. The ozone hole has stabilized and is rebuilding. Y2K really could have done serious damage had not government and business gotten their act together and fixed most of the problems. Once there is political will, stuff gets done.

Of course, stuff does not always get done. Right now our leaders not only lack to the will to solve problems, they can't even agree what the problems are.

That's where we come back to being prepared on an individual level. Our needs are basic: food, water, shelter, clothing, security -it's not a long list, unlike the list of wants. Having survival skills and some preps makes all the difference. It's the right thing to do. You can't help anyone else until your needs are attended to.

We are at a unique point in history where our knowledge is vast. I only hope we have enough wisdom to use that knowledge wisely.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Water line progress

The water line project continues. After getting the ninety degree elbow off I was able to run a pipe snake down the line.

There appears to be a lot of very fine silt and sand packed into the plastic pipe. The pipe snake pulled up a lot of grit. A friend of mine is going to bring up a pressure washer and we'll will try to flush the rest of it out of the line.

That water line has been in use for over forty years. There's about a twenty foot long section of pipe that lays pretty flat. That appears to be the dirtiest part.

I was tempted to play around with it some more, but my lovely wife and I had to go to a wedding. You do not shut off the water while your wife is getting fancied up for a get together.

I'm glad my friend is coming up to help. Some jobs are just easier with two.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Boat shows and stripper clubs

The Annapolis Boat Show and stripper clubs have something in common. It might be fun to check out the goods, but you really don't want to get involved. The costs of doing so are too high. The boat show is going on now and I'm not going anywhere near it. Also not going to see strippers, but that's not the real point of this blog post.

I don't even enjoy looking at new boats in sailing magazines anymore. Even small sailboats are way out of my price range. In fact, I can't even afford most of the water toys some people bring on their boats. I'm letting my sailing magazine subscriptions run out.

Take any item, put the word “marine” in front of it, and the price shoots up. Smart boaters have learned that the last place you look for parts is the marine store. A good well stocked hardware store, at least ten miles inland, is a valuable resource. Things like fuel filters, belts, and engine thermostats can often be found at the auto parts store.

One of the last things you want to do is to pay someone to work on your boat. Being able to do fiberglass work will always save you a bundle. You don't need to have all the skills necessary but if you have some skills you'll have something to barter. A lot of boat work isn't hard, it's just tedious like sanding and painting.

If I'd first learned about sailing at boat shows, I'd never have gone sailing. Once you start looking around, you find all kinds of perfectly serviceable used boats in just about anybody's price range. If you fix one up yourself, you'll have a huge advantage over credit card captains who buy their way into sailing. Eventually, every boat needs work. If you have a simple boat, your problems will be simple ones. Often big new boats are stuck at marinas while their captains wait for parts or have warranty work done. They are stuck in port because of problems with systems that my boat does not even have.

Once in a while the only solution is to spend money at a marine store. Even there, a small simple boat can save you. Prices really climb the bigger your boat. A boat that uses generic, off the shelf parts is cheaper to repair than boats with proprietary systems. There are stores that specialize in used equipment, and that can save you big money.

Sure it might be nice to check out curvy, sexy, tarted up . . . boats. Look but don't touch.

In other news, my water line project advances. I dug down to the ninety degree elbow but did not remove it. Managed to pull a muscle while digging -all part of the joys of digging in tight places. Rather than remove the joint and take a chance dirt would get in there, I put the job off until later. My lovely wife had the phone with the bore scope app on it, so I couldn't scope it out yet. Besides, it was coffee time. Priorities.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mired in Muck

I got back to trouble shooting my well water supply line issues. There have been a lot of distractions requiring my attention. To be honest, the though digging out the line from the basement side was discouraging. However, there's no putting it off any longer. The problem doesn't appear to be on the well side. It's time to face the horrors of the basement.

The house has a partial basement with a gravel floor. The area by the water line has been accumulating junk for years. One of the problems with working in the basement is that I've had to admit to myself that a lot of my stuff down there is junk. Since I've been unable to find a use for most of that stuff for years, it's time to let it go.

Just clearing up the area around the bench filled four large trash bags. Not everything was junk. In fact, I'd found some useful things that I'd totally forgotten about.

Unfortunately, while moving the bench out of the cramped basement, it bumped into my jury rigged plumbing. The jostling caused one of the joints to start leaking. A lot of water poured out before everything was shut down and repaired.

The area where the supply line comes into the basement is the lowest spot. Everything turned to mud. Rather than struggle with that mess, I decided to wait a day for it to dry out. That was a setback, but it shouldn't take me too long to dig up the line. There's a ninety degree elbow that has to be removed before my pipe snake and bore-scope can go down the line. It's possible that debris got jammed in that elbow, which would account for drop in water pressure. My fingers are crossed.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Strange Off-Grid Solutions

Off-grid is pretty straight forward these days. Solar, wind, and generators are all fairly mature technologies. Someone with basic handyman skills can cobble something together.

Years ago there was a lot more hippie-tech. It didn't matter how odd or weird something was, as long as it did the job.

There was a guy who had an off-grid house deep in the woods. It was about a 50 mile drive for him to get to work. He took an old car, beefed up the suspension and removed the back seat. Where the seat was he installed a heavy duty battery bank. The car's alternator was upgraded to a more powerful one. The battery bank charged on his daily commute. When he got home at night he plugged the house into the car's batteries and had power for the night. He lived alone so there was no need for power when he wasn't there.

About ten years ago a guy I knew was looking for a viable electric car for his half hour daily commute to his business. Unfortunately, the technology wasn't ready for prime time yet. His idea was that he'd charge the car off his business's power and write it off as a business expense.

That did get me thinking. Electric cars are now coming into their own. Some businesses are allowing their workers to plug in while they work. I bet you there are people who charge at work, then tap into their car to run some of their household.

I've got a shed running on a small solar electric system down by the lake. This fall I'm going to remove it and install it on the boat. Next spring, to power the shed, I could run power from the boat, across a dock and into the building. Some care would have to be taken, as running power over water needs special protection, but it's very doable. Normally power is run from docks to boats, but there's no reason it couldn't be done the other way.

Sometimes it pays to think outside of the box.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Living Like at Camp

Just about every natural disaster takes down the power grid. Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, snowstorms, tornadoes, and even solar storms. Throw in human error and it's a miracle the grid works at all.

I'm a big proponent of alternative energy. Even small solar electric systems can be a huge help. Then I got to thinking about how I used to spend many a day at my dad's old hunting camp. My dad and his friends built it about fifty years ago, when I was a little kid. Solar electric wasn't an option back then.

Here's what the place was like. It was sixteen by sixteen feet square. The camp was framed with spruce poles. Walls were constructed from salvaged boards. There was a small covered porch in the front. It had a woodstove, a bunk bed, a full sized bed, sink, and a propane stove. Propane came from a hundred pound cylinder. It ran the stove and two gas lights. Propane was the big luxury item in the camp. At first they used a kerosene lantern.

Water came from a brook maybe a hundred yards down a steep hill. Behind the camp was a woodshed and an outhouse. The toilet seat for the outhouse was kept on a hook behind the woodstove. You would not believe the difference in comfort that made, especially in sub-zero weather.

To get to this camp required a nine mile trip up a logging road, then about another quarter mile down a fire road. Many a year we were unable to drive all the way to camp. Sometimes we only had to hike the fire road. For a few years the last three miles would get blocked part of the year. One year my cousin and I traveled the whole way on cross country skies.

Occasionally someone would bring an AM/FM transistor radio. It wasn't all that often, however, as we were at camp for the quiet and isolation. Entertainment consisted of cards, a cribbage board, books, and magazines. It was nice. Actually, it was wonderful.

I got to thinking about how my lovely wife and I would survive at our house with no electricity at all. Let's say the grid goes down and for some reason my solar electric gets knocked out too. It would be a lot like camp. We'd have to keep the woodstove going in cold weather. Jugs of water would need to be hauled up from the well. The toilets could be flushed that way, but it's a lot of work -maybe more hassle than an outhouse. Actually, if I could use the composting toilet from the sailboat it would save a lot of work.

Lighting might become a problem. Eventually all my LED headlamps would run out of batteries. We've some candles, but they wouldn't last forever either. Maybe we'd just go bed when it got dark.

As for entertainment, there's playing cards, a cribbage board, board games, and thousands of good books to read. Actually, it doesn't sound too bad to me. There's something to be said for a less technological lifestyle.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Friends from St. Thomas

My lovely wife and I just got back from a party to welcome back our friends from St. Thomas. They weathered two Cat 5 storms.

Their house was well built and 600 feet above sea level. It survived in good shape, one of the few. They had a generator. The wife insisted they get one when they moved onto the island. In their little community there were only four generators.

Their biggest difficulty was getting off the island. In the end they were able to board a Norwegian Cruise line boat. The cruise line treated them well and even allowed everyone to take their pets. Three days later they were in Ft. Lauderdale FL where they caught a flight to New England.

The husband has applied for work in Maine as there's little for him to do on St. Thomas. He felt that since he has the option to find work off island, he's not going to compete with those who can't leave. They will rent out the house, as it may be years before they go back.

It's estimated that power restoration will take at least three to six months. St. Thomas is a United States territory but not a lot of aid has come from the mainland. In fact, Denmark had donated as much as the US to the recovery effort. That's a little embarrassing.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Chance to remake the grid

Elon Musk is like someone ripped right out of a Science Fiction novel. He has his finger in every futuristic pie -everything from electric cars to rocket ships.

Mr. Musk has offered to re-power Puerto Rico using solar panels and his advanced battery technology. He's already used his devices to power some small islands. Elon claims there's no reason his power systems cannot scale up. Already he has employees on the ground, attaching his batteries to existing solar panel infrastructure.

This could be a huge boon for the island. Right now all their energy is generated using expensive fossil fuels. The island's grid was pretty shaky before the storm. It would make little sense to invest a lot of money in a power system that was inadequate to begin with.

Solar makes so much sense for a place like Puerto Rico. I live in cold and cloudy northern New Hampshire. We have one of the worse locations for solar power in the United States. In spite of that, I've used it successfully for over 20 years. Sure, I'm just one nut -an early adopted. Now I'm not alone. There are large arrays of solar panels popping up all over the place. Companies are in competition to install them. Even the cross country ski club's warming hut has enough solar electric to power a heat pump.

If it can work here in the frozen north, it should excel in the sunny Caribbean. It should also excel in sunny Florida, but the power lobby is so strong there that they've put up legal road blocks to solar. Not cool at all.

I really hope that PR makes a deal with Elon Musk. It would be a perfect test bed for large scale use of the technology. The island could then avoid importing expensive and polluting fossil fuels. Another added bonus is that solar is diversified. The whole island would never lose the majority of its power again. Now all you have to do is to take out a few power plants and some high power transmission lines and the island goes dark.

I really hope this works out. First of all, it would be great for those on the island, but would also show the rest of the country that it can work on a large scale.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Oh look, another storm!

Looks like Tropical Storm Nate is going to hit New Orleans as a hurricane. At this time, it's not supposed to be a strong hurricane. As far as I'm concerned, a hurricane is a hurricane. New Orleans has difficulty handling normal rain storms, so I'm guessing flooding is going to be an issue. It's always an issue.

Nate is going to fill in the area missed by Harvey and Irene. That will mean that pretty much the whole Gulf of Mexico will have been hit this season. I can't help but wonder how the insurance industry is doing. Interesting times.

I hope that even though this is not a Cat 5, that people take it seriously. Flooding is usually the biggest killer, not the wind.

After Katrina a number of people had moved up to northern NH. One guy told me it was as far away from the Gulf as he could get without leaving the Continental US. I was told by one person that cold and snow did not bother him as much as the threat of hurricanes. Right now, I'm pretty sure he is glad he didn't go back.

By the way, there's weeks of hurricane season left.


Friday, October 6, 2017

Small Boat Solution

Reports are coming out of Florida about the situation on the water. The devastation has been extensive in the Keys. I hear something like 70% of the boats were lost down there. Even boats that survived are sitting still. There are so many wrecks and so much debris in the channels that it's not safe. Then there's the little problem of where do you go? Quite a few marinas are out of business. Even people who don't normally stay at marinas still use their fuel docks, fresh water, and pump outs.

My lovely wife and I plan on sailing the waters of Florida this year. We are taking down our Oday 19 sailboat. With the swing keel retracted, it draws only a foot of water. That will allow us to get into places where most boats cannot go. Instead of being hung up on debris or new shoals, we should be able to pass right over most of them.

In the past we've gotten by quite well without marinas. We used Google maps to find things on shore, then located anchorages that let us reach what we needed. We've anchored off shore, kayaked to town and chained our kayak to a park bench. When I needed gas I'd often just carry a gas can down to a filling station.

Since the boat is a trailer sailor, we can pick and choose where we want to launch. If a section of waterway looks too sketchy, we'll be able to trailer it to a better location.

That's great. It's a good little boat. We even bought a new mainsail for it last summer. There is one persistent problem though. The cabin isn't very large. It is big enough for both of us and the dog to stretch out and sleep comfortably. There is not much room for anything else.

A bigger boat would be nice, but my lovely wife has a different idea. Instead of having a bigger boat, she wants to have smaller crew. If we both lose some weight, there will be more room. Dang, she's got a point. It even fits our budget much better than buying a bigger boat right now.

Salad anyone?


Thursday, October 5, 2017

One thing leads to another

I finally felt healthy enough to do some work outside. I tried the 25 foot pipe snake from the well side of the supply line. Did not notice any obstructions. The next step is to try it from the basement side. That will require moving a lot of junk and some digging. My 10 meter long bore scope came in the mail late in the afternoon. It connects directly to my cell phone and has a decent picture. Can't wait to try it. That might show me things the bore snake could miss.

While we were out and about, my lovely wife asked me to move some things down by the beach. It was such a beautiful day that we decided to have lunch next to the water. The sun was so warm that we lay out in the sailboat's cockpit, soaking up some vitamin D.

Then the wind picked up so we had no choice. My lovely wife and I just had to lift anchor and raise the sails. We spent the rest of the afternoon sailing. Heck, I even did some fishing while we were cruising around. Temperatures were in the high 70s, the fall foliage is filling in, and bugs were few.

It was like a day in Paradise. Unlike some Paradise spots, there were no poisonous snakes, no sharks, alligators, or Zika mosquitoes. Don't get me wrong, once the snow flies up here, I'll gladly take my chances with the critters to have a little warmth and sunshine. However, for one day, it was Paradise here in the Great White North.

My lovely wife appears to be recovered from her bout of plague. Occasionally, I still try to cough up a lung, but that's normal for me. It didn't seem to bother me much at all while sailing.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Cultural Appropriation

I was at a birthday party some weeks ago. I got there late, but apparently the wine had been flowing for some time. The subject of cultural appropriation came up. One young lady was extremely against one group of people adopting things from someone else's culture. She wasn't just talking about made in Taiwan “Indian” dream catchers either. Nope, she was pretty absolute about one culture not being able to borrow anything from another.

I'm hoping that in the sober light of day, she felt a bit sheepish about her position. Considering her Austrian background and the fact that she was arguing in English rather than German . . . Well, how dare she appropriate the English language like that. Sounds silly, I know, but her arguments made about as much sense. She did have a youthful passion though, so I'll give her that.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of adopting from other cultures. Let's use a computer analogy. A human being is the hardware. Culture is the software that runs on the system. Culture is the program that makes humans do what they do. Computers can be more useful with better programs. Humans can function better when operating with a better culture.

The beautiful thing about human beings is their ability to adapt and change. If you have exactly the same set of values at 60 as you had a 10 you haven't been paying attention. A 10 year old has the programming that their parents put into them. That's useful, otherwise we'd be no better than monkeys. However, our parents, through no fault of their own, passed down some crappy ideas. That might the same crappy ideas they got from their parents. They might not have even been bad ideas to start with, but are no longer useful in a changed world. As a person ages, they learn how to self program and adopt new cultural programming from the world around them.

Thanks to the Internet, we have exposure to a vast array of cultures and information. I've a theory. Given enough time, a “world culture” drawing from the best practices across the planet will emerge. Actually, there will probably be a number of new cultures as one size does not fit all. Everyone's built a little different.

Back in my college days it was fashionable to assume that all cultures were equivalent. Even Anthropology had a certain level of political correctness. When I studied some of these cultures, I was pretty glad many of them were dying out. Cultures based on incest and murdering all strangers really do not need to survive.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

To the Grocery Store

Monday I felt well enough to go into town to do a little grocery shopping. My lovely wife is in the middle of suffering from whatever it is I had. I'm still feeling pretty weak. Instead of heading into town right after lunch, I found myself exhausted and took a nap first.

We have enough food in the house to last quite a while, but variety starts to suffer. Also, when not well, some comfort food really hits the spot. So what does my lovely wife do while I'm shopping? She's on the Internet researching all the foods that we should avoid. That info might have been more useful to me before I went to town, but whatever.

I actually did fairly well, mostly because I avoid most prepared foods. The closer is is to being pulled from the ground or cut from the animal, the better. It's also a lot cheaper. True, food prep takes time, but there are some pretty good cheats along the way.

One often overlooked kitchen tool is the humble crock pot, or slow cooker, depending where you come from. It turns some of the cheapest ingredients into some of the best food. Cuts of meat one step above shoe leather, dried beans, peas, and root vegetables are great in a crock pot Add some spices and time and you've got a good hearty and cheap meal. Sometimes I get even more primitive than that by using a cast iron dutch oven on the woodstove.

Food supply is one of those big things that concerns my lovely wife. Our garden space is small and the growing season is short. It's one of the persistent problems in our quest to be more self-reliant. We can heat with wood, use the sun for electricity, get our water from a well, but we don't grow much food.

Personally, I'm not all that big into farming. My ancestors disliked it enough to embrace the rigors of 19th century factory life. However, I'm going to have to figure something out. One thing I've learned is that our native wild plants do pretty well here, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, pin cherries, and a whole bunch of edible greens.

My filbert trees that I planted some years ago are getting productive. We've just got to remember to use netting to keep the squirrels out of them. I like sun-chokes, as they seem to thrive well on poor soil and neglect.

One of these days I'm going to have to throw up a green house and maybe some vertical gardening. Whatever I decide on, you can bet it'll be low maintenance. For now, the grocery store isn't all that far away.


Monday, October 2, 2017

One Motor Away

My lovely wife has always said our Oday 19 is too small to make the jump from Florida to the Bahamas. Plenty of boats that size and smaller have made the trip. What she really meant was that it was too small for her.

It's not like she needs a mega yacht to feel comfortable. She was willing to make the crossing in our Ranger 23. Of course, we were going to haul it out first and really go over everything. As luck would have it, we lost the boat and never got the chance.

Then yesterday she surprised me and said that if we had a strong gas outboard on the Oday 19, she'd be willing to make the crossing. That's a huge change for her. It almost made me want to go to the marine store and pick up an outboard.

So what changed her mind? I'm just guessing here, but I've got an idea. We watch a lot of videos of people sailing the Bahamas. An old Distant Shores video featured a boat with a lift keel. I think, with the keel raised, they drew less than two feet. Now this was a full sized cruising boat, not a glorified dinghy like our Oday. However, the Oday, with keel raised, only draws about a foot of water.
She may have reached the point where having a shallow draft is more important than having a larger boat.

So why would she want a good outboard? One of the strategies for crossing the Gulf Stream involves waiting for a perfectly calm day. While there's no wind to sail with, there's no wind to churn up the waves. Northerly winds blowing against the current is especially bad. With a good motor one can just power across.

Right now the only motor on that boat is a 55lb thrust electric trolling motor. It can push the boat around at about half speed. That's fine for most things -it is a sailboat, after all. The electric motor is not a good choice for a longer passage in a strong current.

As for myself, I was thinking that next year we could get a slighter bigger lift keel boat and go to the Bahamas then. Of course, once we are down to Florida this winter, it wouldn't be that hard to pick up an outboard and scoot over to the Bahamas. It would not be the craziest thing we've ever done.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Tired, Sore, Injured or Old

Last week I went on a moderate walk in an attempt to get back in condition. I was surprised how sore my muscles and joints were. I figured that old age was catching up on me. Maybe it is, but that really wasn't the problem. It was the start of my getting sick.

On one hand, sickness passes and I'm probably not stuck with all those aches. On the other hand, I'm been sick for a week. That's no fun either. Also not making any progress getting back into condition.

It's true that when you are young you bounce back from just about anything. Decades later, not so much. In fact, some of those old injuries resurface and start to complain all over again.

At 59 I am pretty lucky in a lot of ways. Many of the firefighters I worked with are now gone. Cancer is a common killer in the profession. All that chemical exposure take a toll. Even though my lungs were badly damaged with smoke inhalation, I've avoid the big “C” so far.

Another common problem is joint damage. Knees, hips, shoulders -the job takes its toll. We used to ride standing on tailgate of the truck back in the day. An older firefighter told me to always keep my knees bent; it would save me grief later. He was right. I did and it did.

Of course, I've plenty of other opportunities to do damage in the years since leaving the service. My shoulder does this weird popping thing. However, it still works, so what's a few sound effects?

I've a doctor who's amazed at how good I'm actually doing. Part of that might be that I avoid doctors a lot so they don't get the chance to kill me. Years ago a doctor wanted to put me on weight loss drug. Instead of taking the drug, I dropped the doctor. Later the drug was recalled because it caused heart damage. Well, I'm still fat, but my heart is good.

Speaking of heart, I've also got love in my life. Never discount the healing power of love. A happy marriage makes for a happy life. I also avoid a lot of stress by just not dealing with a lot of BS. It's surprising how much stuff goes away by ignoring it. That attitude probably came from my dad. He'd listen politely to someone telling him what he had to do. He didn't argue. Then dad would do whatever the heck he wanted to do. It's funny what life lessons stick.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Near and Medium Term Plans

It's been about a week, and I'm far from better. However, I am on the mend. Sadly, my lovely wife just came down with whatever it is I've got. She's been working herself pretty hard lately and it caught up to her.

I hope to get to my water well project in a few days. Amazon has some pretty inexpensive endoscopes so I went ahead and ordered a 10 meter one. That should allow me to find the problem. The buried line can be checked from both ends. There will only be about 6 feet that I won't be able to see. If the problem doesn't show up in the scope, it's in the 6 foot section I can't reach. Between the scope and a drum auger, any blockage should be able to be cleared up. The problem could be a leak, but the scope should find that. If the scope saves me from digging up 66 feet of line, that's a good thing.

Hopefully I can sort out the water situation soon. The temporary surface line is working out, but eventually freezing temps will arrive.

With luck, the weather will hold long enough to get some projects done on the van and sailboat. We've pushed out travel plans off until after New Years. That will give more time for places like the Florida Keys to recover. They are a tourist area and if I can spend some time and money down there that will help out a bit.

Some people have suggested that I film my trips and put up a You Tube channel. There are people making a good income from posting sailing adventures. However, there's only a few making real money at it. After doing some research I figured out a ballpark estimate of what the top 10 sailing vlogs make. The top end is somewhere around $300,000. That includes money from You Tube, Patreon, endorsements, sponsorship and other things. By the time you get to number 10 on the list, the income has already dropped to about $30,000. While that's nothing to sneeze at, your budget gets blown if you need a new sail or major engine repair.

Make no mistake about it, filming sailing in paradise is a job. There's an investment in cameras, audio gear, computers for editing, software and other odds and ends. Putting out a weekly video takes a lot of time and effort. Then you have to search around to find a high speed connection to upload the video. Instead of seeing the sights, you are spending 12 hours at a wifi hotspot trying upload on a dodgy signal.

You also need to look good on camera. Being young, fit, and having bikini clad young ladies on the boat is a huge plus. It's not absolute necessary, but sex sells.

Being lazy, I'm going to continue operate on a shoestring budget on old and small boats. I will post photos and do my best to keep the blog up to date. Text and a few photos are not nearly as data intensive as video.

That being said, I did buy a well rated cheap knockoff of a gopro camera. There may be the occasional video clip included. The learning curve is steep as I've never done much filming of any sort before.

So if all goes well, the fall projects will wrap up in the next couple weeks. Then we'll do the final prep for winter and spring travel.


Friday, September 29, 2017

The New People

One thing about the Internet -it's easy to find like minded people. You can get together on social media and have a community of sorts. That may provide some emotional support, but that's about all. It's hard to provide real world assistance when your “community” is scattered across the planet.

Then there are actual brick and mortal communities -places with neighborhoods and public spaces. Every community has people who are outside the community norm. Sometimes they are tolerated. Other times they are shunned. Once in a while they are just considered local color. If you are moving into a place, it helps to move someplace where strangers are welcome, not just tolerated or worse.

In the past few years I'm become friends with a number of people new to the area. They are attracted by a number of factors: relatively low housing costs, easy access to nature, walk-able city, no sales or income tax. We are also getting people who find our area fairly welcoming and tolerant. While people in the area have always been friendly, it used to take three generations to be considered a local. That's changed a lot, even in my lifetime.

I think that greater numbers of people are aware of the real value of community. If you have no friends and share few values with the people where you live, it might be time to move. When times get tough, you are going to need to be around people who will help you out. Finding your tribe is important. One woman who I talked to said she lived in many different places, but this is the first time she's ever felt like part of a tribe. It's not about finding people who'll always agree with you. It's about finding people who can acknowledge differences and still like you anyway.

It's can be tough living here. Winters are brutal. Good jobs can be hard to come by. Many people end up working several part time jobs to make ends meet. The social and political environment will not be to everyone's liking. That's fine.

The Internet can be a really useful tool when looking for a place to move to. You can get a pretty good idea what an area is like with some in-depth on-line research. Then you should probably visit the area for a while, to see how it feels. Some things have to be experienced in person.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Generator or Solar?

What works best in a grid down situation?

I'm not going to lie. You get the best bang for your buck from a generator. A generator big enough to run a freezer and an AC unit can be had for less than $500. Enough solar electricity to do the same job will cost you thousands.

If all you are concerned about is having enough backup power to last a few days, by all means, get a generator. Make sure you know how to use it safely. Gas storage, electrical connections and carbon monoxide poisoning are all serious issues that must be dealt with.

Where a generator starts to fall down is during a long term outage. Storing fuel for weeks or months worth of use is not cheap. It's also probably prohibited by your town's safety codes. There are reasons for that. Bulk fuel storage is a specialized operation requiring proper equipment and training.

So how does solar stack up long term? The best part of solar electric systems is the fact that they just work. No need to tinker with them. No handling fuel. They are quiet and reliable.

What kind of system do you need? Like everything else, that depends. Ideally, you have a system on your house that pays for itself day in, day out. When the grid goes down you might not even notice as the system smoothly goes to battery backup. Now some worry that roof mounted panels could be damaged in a hurricane. True, but your roof will probably be flying off at that point and you'll have greater problems than a lack of electricity. Some people have had success with temporarily removing the panels and tossing them in a swimming pool for safety.

Even a small system can make a huge difference in your quality of life. A 100 watt panel, deep discharge battery, charge controller, and a small inverter costs no more than a cheap generator. It won't power your freezer, but it will charge your phone, keep a light on, power a fan, and do other light jobs. It will also do it long after your neighbor's generator has run out of gas.

If you've got an RV or a travel trailer, or even a van, you've no excuse not to have solar mounted on the vehicle. It makes dry camping much easier. You can drive the vehicle out of harm's way. When you get back to your home, you have a power source available for fixing your house.

Another option is to build a power trailer. Take a cheap utility trailer, mount a battery bank, panels, and associated electronic and you are good to go. These are great where there are ordinances against having solar panels on your roof. I know people in that situation. They park the trailer in the driveway or behind the house and snake a power cord to to the house to run a few items year round.

This power trailer was built to power concerts in areas beyond the grid. It has better quality electronics than most because it powers high end audio equipment.

The thing with generators and solar, it doesn't have to be an either/or situation. They can work well together. For example, a generator might be run for just a few hours a day -just enough to keep the freezer cold and to cool the house down a bit. The solar electric system runs full time to power lights, a radio, and charge electronics. That stretches out your generator's fuel supply.

Waiting for the grid to come back up is a terrible feeling. It's even worse when you have no power at all, your phone is dead, and radios don't work. Backup power can be a life saver, and it always provides some peace of mind.



I'm still dealing with being sick. My strategy has been to try and sleep it off. Still in the middle of it. My lovely wife has taking good care of me. While I've been out of it, she's decided to clean my office. You've no idea what a herculean task that is. Progress has been made.

While sick I've been missing out on some of the warmest weather we've ever had for the end of September. Temperatures hit 90 yesterday. That's insane. Gardens and flowers are still out in force. We've yet to have a frost. That's unheard of here in the northern mountains of New Hampshire.

I'm going back to bed. One day I'll wake up and be well.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Puerto Rico

There's a lot of survivalist fiction that tries to depict what life would be like in a grid down situation. In Puerto Rico, that hypothetical disaster has become reality. The whole island lost power, millions are in the dark, and there's no firm estimate when it will be back.

Puerto Rico is in a strange place politically. It's a US territory. Its citizens are US citizens. However, they don't have the same rights that citizens in a US state would have. That puts the island in a sort of limbo. It's economic problems have been getting worse for many months. The way its government is set up, they have very little power to fix things themselves. For years the mainland has taken advantage of the island's status. Big businesses made a lot of money on the island and gave very little back.

It's history is important, but the main issue is what happens now. We have very spotty information on how bad it really is there. Communications are so bad that the governor himself can't reach most of the island.

What has come out doesn't sound good. Hospitals are shutting down as their generators run out of fuel. Emergency services are overwhelmed. A dusk to dawn curfew is in effect. There are stories of looting and violent crime. Authorities are stretched thin.

The United States, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, will be judged on how it reacts to the crisis. They are US citizens, just as deserving of aid as Texas or Florida. For that matter, don't forget the US Virgin Islands, another US territory in need.

If the emergency response isn't strong enough, Puerto Rico's citizens have only one viable option for a normal life. As US citizens, they are free to come to the mainland. Don't be too surprised of the vast majority of the three million residents leave the island. Get ready to welcome your new neighbors.

It may be days, weeks, or months before the general public has a firm grasp on the situation -if they are still interested. By then the nation will have moved on. We should not forget and help as much as we can.

Now imagine if there was a massive EMP or solar storm that knocked out the power in most of the US. It's a possibility. If we can't restore power to a couple of islands, how well would a nationwide blackout be handled?


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Under the weather

I've come down with something: cough, fever and all that. Due to my lung issues I really suffer when I get a cough. Just to make things interesting, my cough syncope has come back. What that means is that sometimes when I cough, I pass out.

At least the weather is nice for the foreseeable future. That will give me time to get better before the cold sets in.

Of course, my water well project has been set back. I've got a drum Auger with 1/4" x 25' Spring Cable on order. First I'm going to check the lower end by the well. If that's clear, then I'll fish it in from the basement. That should allow me to check most of the line for the blockages.

M. Silvius suggested I get hold of a camera that can be snaked down the pipe. If the spring cable is inconclusive, that's what I'm going to do. Anything is better than finding the problem area by digging it all up. We've got technology these days.

Right now I'm not doing anything at all but trying to recover. Pretty annoying to have this setback. I was just starting to do more walking to get back in condition. That's going to have to wait too. Such is life.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Cruisers going dark

I follow a lot of sailing blogs, podcasts and YouTube channels. The Caribbean and Florida interests me so I've concentrated on those who sail in those waters. Lots of those boaters got hit by the hurricanes. Not all of them have been accounted for. Only a handful have survived in relatively good condition.

A few got out of the hurricane zone in time. Some got lucky and missed the worse of the storm. Those who survived in the zone did so with good planning and lots of luck. Even if your boat is well prepared, it could get hit by another boat that broke loose. It appears that's what happened to many boats in the Boot Key mooring field in the Keys. Boats would break free and collide with other boats and so on.

One of my concerns are some of the boating communities that don't have a public presence. People like to think of boaters are wealthy people who have expensive toys. While there are some like that, many are people without much money. They are eking out a living on old boats. They live at anchor, working low wage jobs or living on small pensions.

There are anchorages of those people all over Florida. The anchoring field off of Key West comes to mind. It's a pretty sketchy anchorage at the best of times. Even minor storms cause boats to drag at anchor. There's also a significant low rent boating district off of Bradenton Beach. My lovely wife and I have anchored there a few times ourselves.

What concerns me is that these people are pretty far off the grid at the best of times. Many of them could go down with their boat and nobody would notice. People come and go all the time. Who's to say whether or not someone moved on or sank to the bottom?

Why should we care? Well, first of all, they are human beings like everyone else. That should be enough. There is more though, they are free people, not tied down to the rat race. I, for one, was excited to learn that there were people out there living good lives on less than $500/month. It's like they found a cheat code to life.

At the best of times, they are tolerated. Often they would be harassed by waterfront property owners who did no like to look at them. Law enforcement knows who pays their wages, and it's not the sea hobos on old boats. I'm sure many of those rich property owners don't care if those boaters survived the storms or not -as long as they are gone.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Lake Party

We had some people over for a party the other day. We got to introduce people to each other who live in the area but had not spent any time together. There were some great conversations and some new friendships made.

There was a new guy who just moved into the area. He's spent six months working on sailboats in the Virgin Islands. He was trying to learn everything he could about boats. He did every kind of work imaginable, even those nasty jobs deep in the bilge.

He reached a point where he had to decide on if he'd stay on boats or do something else. He decided to move to New Hampshire. A fried if his was moving into the area so he had a place to stay. The guy started a knife sharpening business and got into the local music scene. He connected with a fellow musician at the party. They made plans to work together.

The new guy was telling me that of the nine boats he worked on in the islands, every one of them sank. All were total losses. I think he made a good decision to come to New Hampshire.

We had a good gathering. The weather was perfect. The sunset over the lake was amazing. Later we gathered around the campfire. It was nice to learn things about people I've known for years, but never really knew. The addition of new good people to our area is always a plus.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Back to the well

My lovely wife is finished with her painting project. I'm back to trying to puzzle out my water well issues.

I figured a way to back flush the supply line. It took some time to get everything set up. Eventually I found enough connectors and clamps to cobble something together.

After back flushing the line for a long time, I hooked up the pump to the old line. There was no significant improvement. Right now I'm leaning towards the line being partially crushed. It's come down to pick and shovel work. The first section I'm going to check is where the line comes into the basement. My lovely wife is going to help me move stuff out of the way so I can dig.

One spring I had to dig up the line there because it froze solid. Digging through frozen gravel was like digging through concrete. It took days to get that dug up and thawed out. Since that area gave me trouble once before, that's where I'm going to start. Fun, you bet!

It was frustrating to work most of the day and accomplish very little. At least I know what doesn't work. Also, I fabricated more robust connectors on my temporary supply line. That temporary solution might have to last for longer than I'd hoped.

I'm not angry or upset. Stuff happens. All I can do is to keep plugging away at it until a solution is found. It's a puzzle that has to be solved, that's all.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Prepper with a gun and MREs

A friend of mine was telling me about a guy who called himself a prepper. My buddy got to talk to the young man. The guy had a car, a gun and a bunch of MREs. That's about it -no sleeping bag even. Not only was he short on gear, his skills were pretty limited. He could not start a campfire without lighter fluid.

My friend took him under his wing. The young man had a lot to learn, but he is willing and pays attention. One of the big lessons was that prepping isn't just for the end of the world with no rules or laws. You are much more likely going to need gear and skills for things like storms that take the grid down. He even got across the idea that being prepared can help you with common things like a bout of unemployment.

My buddy is helping the young man, but is also helping the community. A man with supplies and skills are an asset during an emergency. Someone who has little more than a gun can become one more problem to solve. If your only tool is a gun, everything needs shooting. I wonder how many people think being a prepper is nothing more than firearms and MREs?

Personally, I'm pretty concerned about people relying on MREs as survival food. Maybe they are fine as part of a varied food mix. Relying on them exclusively will get you into trouble. MREs were designed for people going into a combat situation. They are very low in fiber. The idea is that troops literally will not be caught with their pants down. Unfortunately, you won't poop for a month if those are all you eat. That can't be good for you.

There may be times when the lighter weight and ease of preparation make dehydrated meals a good choice. If you have to stock up on dehydrated meals go with food designed for backpackers. Most people think the taste is better and you can get meals with enough fiber for healthy living. Neither MREs or backpacker meals are cheap. Most of my stored foods are things like wheat, rice, beans and normal grocery store foods.

I have 30 day buckets of dehydrated backpacker means in my van and in my boat. They don't take up a lot of room and are very stable. Sometimes it makes sense to spend a bit more money to save weight and space. Even so, even on my vehicles, most of my day to day food is pretty normal stuff.

One thing you can about the guy with a gun and MREs -at least he didn't have just a gun.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hurricanes and Sailing

Our friends in St. Thomas just survived another direct hurricane hit. Puerto Rico just lost its complete grid. We'll need some time before we learn how bad things are there.

The hurricane season is barely half over, and it's been a tough one. I follow a lot of sailing blogs and YouTube channels. Some boaters have retreated to the mangroves and their boats survived the storms. Other sailed south to get below the likely path of hurricanes. Many pulled their floating homes out of the water and secured them on land. A number, in spite of their precautions, lost their boats completely.

So, with all the destruction, how do I feel about sailing now? It's been a time for reflection, that's for sure. In the short term, we moved our departure date from the end of November to sometime in January. By then we should have a clearer idea what's going on.

We did not buy a bigger boat this year and I'm happy with that that decision. Next year, if we can swing it financially, we shall upgrade. We might get a bigger trailer sailor so we can get load the boat on a trailer and drive out of harm's way. Another option is to get a bigger boat but keep it out of the hurricane zones.

Originally, we thought we'd like to keep a boat in Florida during the summer. That no longer seems like a great idea. We can either sail up to New England in the spring or keep heading south below the normal hurricane zone.

It might seem crazy to even consider spending half our time on a boat. The thing is, we are water people and have not given up on the life.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Painting and hiding

My lovely wife is painting. I'm hiding from it. My damaged lungs are sensitive to paint fumes. Painting projects are planned for when I'm out of town for a few days. Unfortunately, the kitchen is taking longer to paint than she hoped.

There are a couple of fans going full blast. By the time we go to bed, I can tolerate being upstairs in the bedroom. The downstairs is pretty much off limits for a good part of the day. Yesterday I spent part of the evening out in the van.

I feel bad that I can't help her. Low VOC paints help, but are not perfect. At least I've been able to sand cupboard doors by removing them and taking them outside. We've had a good run of nice weather and are taking full advantage of it.

It's funny, my lovely wife is all concerned about the colors she picked out, worried that I might not like them. Anyone who does the painting can choose the color as far as I'm concerned.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Storm Deals

Most of you have seen pictures and video of the recent hurricane destruction. One really dramatic visual is of all the boats damaged by the storms. Ever wonder what that does to the second hand market?

While I don't want to sound like a vulture, it's a fact of life that wide scale disasters affect markets. The used boat market happens to be one of the more visible ones.

There's two things that most people think of. One is that there should be a lot of handyman specials out there. The second common thought is that with all those boats out of action, demand for boats should be high.

While there are some amazing deals for damaged boats, you have to be really careful. Make sure you have the skills, time, and place to work on a boat. Storm damaged boats are not like other older boats in need of repair. Boats that age through normal use have common and well documented issues. A buyer can research the problems areas and keep an eye out for them. A boat that's been picked off a house with a crane will have issues that are out of the ordinary. Close and in-depth inspections are in order. Many “free” boats will be too expensive to fix.

What about prices going up because so many boats were destroyed? It's not that straight forward. Many boat owners, who's boats were nowhere near the storms, suddenly decided to put their boats on the market. The once vague notion that hurricanes might be an issue becomes a pressing worry. Many are scared of being caught on their boat in a storm. Others don't want to worry about finding a safe place to store their boat during storm season. Insurance increases can also be a factor.

Then there are market forces that have nothing to do with hurricanes. This time of year, here in New England, the boat market has a lot of good deals. The boating season is quickly coming to an end. Boats will need to be pulled out of the water and put in storage. Owners are often willing to make a deal so that weatherization is someone else's problem.

While I'm at it, beware of used cars that were in the flood zone. They may look like a good deal. Then the electrical systems start to fail soon after you buy them. They can also rust in odd places because water gets trapped where it normally doesn't get into.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Three Days on the Road

I got in late last Sunday night after three days downstate. I was too tired to post my normal blog.

While I was gone my lovely wife started a painting project. Paint fumes cause problems for my damaged lungs so she tries to do these things while I'm away. The project appears to have gotten out of hand. House projects have a tendency to grow.

She had fans going full blast so I was able to sleep in my own bed last night. However, after today's painting I'm probably going to have to sleep out in the van. No biggie. The bed there is comfortable and she'll join me out there.

She's working on the kitchen right now, but I was able to move enough stuff around to start the coffee perking. Life is good.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Wounded Old and Treacherous

Nothing like an annoying long term injury to make a person feel old. Pushing 60 doesn't help either. I didn't feel old until that nasty leg infection laid me up for months. The injury, plus the lack of activity, really laid me low.

After a couple days of hard labor working around the house, I was done in. You know it's bad when you shake out two Ibuprofen. One falls on the ground so I take the first and wait for it to kick in before trying to bend down to pick up the second. I had to laugh at myself.

While I can't anything about the calendar, I can get in better condition. That's more important than ever right now. Some people age gracefully. Some just get more ornery. A friend's grandfather, a miserable old cuss pushing 80, used to get into bar fights. He'd kick the tar out of some cocky young guy. My friend and his dad would go down to the jail to bail the old guy out. He knew no one would ever press charges. What young guy wants to admit he got his backside handed to him by an old man?

I don't want to be a miserable old cuss, but I don't want to be a push over either. There are too many adventures to be had yet.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

More details from the ground

While my dad has passed and no longer lives in a FL retirement park, my lovely wife and I still know people who live there. This park is in Brooksville, maybe 50 miles north of Tampa. Early indication were that it wasn't that bad. Everyone we knew got out of the part and were in shelters or hotels.

Last night we got more details. While it wasn't anything like the devastation in the Keys, there were sections that did not do well at all. The two small ponds on the property became one good sized lake. Low lying trailers were flooded.

The scary part was the handful of trailers that had huge oaks come down on them. One of the things that made the park nice was all the shade from the mature trees. Those trees were less nice when falling over in high winds.

The power is still out in the park. In Florida, the lack of AC alone can do damage to a building. Black mold is always a concern. Many trailers were built with wafer board. Less expensive than plywood, it was especially popular with trailers built years ago. Heat and humidity can cause that material to basically fall apart.

I remember a housing development in another part of Florida that suffered from the 2008 housing crash. There were about 300 houses in the project. Very few of them were occupied when the developer when bust. After 6 months of being left without air conditioning, the walls weakened enough that the siding fell off. What a mess. Of course, during the housing boom a lot of construction was pretty slap dash.

I'm guessing that the longer the power outages lasts, the more houses will become unfit for habitation.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Temporary water fix

After a few days messing around with my well and pump, the house finally has water again. I suspected the water pressure was too low to trip the pressure switch. The last time that happened the pump was dying. This time, that wasn't the case. Turns out the problem is somewhere in the buried water line. This line is 66 feet long and 6 – 8 feet deep to get below the frost line.

My temporary solution was to run a hose directly from the pump to the house. It's not buried, so when the hard frosts arrive it will freeze. Fortunately, we are having a really nice September. Warm weather is predicted for 10 days out. That buys me some time.

I really do not want to have to dig up the whole line by hand. There are some trouble spots that I can check out first. There's a section that froze hard one year, so I'm going to check that first. Maybe it was weakened and didn't completely fail until now. With luck I'll find the problem and be able to splice in new line.

What I'd really want to do is to put a new well on my land across the street. It's up hill from the house so gravity would do most of the work. That's not in the budget right now. We were thinking of maybe getting a home loan to catch up on projects we've been putting off. We did not plan on that until the spring.

For this winter, we are going to make the old well work. Maybe when the water line freezes it'll be our cue to head south for the winter.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Water system problems

We've had water system problems for the last couple of days. Every other plan and project has been set on the back burner until we have reliable water again.

On the bright side, the well is full of water. It's a plumbing problem of some sort. So far I've replaced a check valve, a pressure switch and a pump. It pumps water up to the house, but the pressure might be too low. That's one more trip into town to pick up a new pressure gauge. That way I'll know for sure.

So far I've spent $400 without solving the problem. I don't feel too bad about the parts I've changed as they were all pretty worn. Better to replace them now than in December.

It's starting to look like the problem might be a damaged water line. Really really really hoped it was something else. The line is 66 feet long, buried between 6 – 8 feet to get below the frost line. It's in a very steep hill, too steep for heavy equipment. One summer, a very long time ago, I buried the whole thing using hand tools.

By Thursday night I should have a better idea what has to be done. One of the joys of home ownership out in the woods.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Life without AC

Most of Florida and other parts of the Southeast are without power. That means they are also without air conditioning. It's going to be tough.

The south really boomed when air conditioning became common. Losing it is like going back to an earlier age. However, the house designs of the past that made the south somewhat livable are rarely used now. Many places have windows that do not even open.

The north has the cold, but a house can be heated with fairly primitive technology. There are no wood fired air conditioners. As I write this I have a nice kitchen woodstove that's perfect for heating and cooking. It needs no electricity to run. Not only that, I live in the woods, surrounded by fuel within walking distance.

Air conditioning has allowed people to live in a hot climate without ever having to acknowledge it. They go from their AC homes to their AC cars to their AC job. While that's pretty comfortable, they never acclimate to the climate. Only those who spend a lot of time outdoors gets a chance to adjust.

It's been my observation that it takes about two or three weeks for one's body to adjust to a hotter climate. It looks like plenty of people will be without power for at least that long. In the mean time, stay in the shade, catch what breeze is available, avoid heavy labor in the heat of the day, and drink lots of water.

People die from heat stroke. It's no joke. Hopefully power will be restored to most places before too long.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Window Pet Peeve

House windows are not cheap. Over 20 years ago I spent big money to buy windows for the dome. I was worried about the specialty windows. There were a couple of custom triangle shaped windows that concerned me, just because they were custom jobs. The windows that really worried me where the skylights. Everyone had horror storied how they “always” leaked.

Years later the triangle windows are still perfect. The skylights never leaked one drop of water. All the hardware on them works fine.

The windows that gave me problems are all the normal, off the shelf, rectangular ones. Their big feature was the fact that they cranked out. Everyone said they were good quality. The price certainly reflected that. Well, after ten years the company disappeared. Then the cranks started to fail. After a long search I was able to find similar replacement cranks, but they don't quite work as well as they should.

I should have known better. Mechanical crank windows fail. They just do. The original ones didn't just swing the window open. No, there's a few levers that moved the whole window out and to the side. A simple pivot would be too easy -and fixable.

Window hardware that fails is nothing new. Remember back when windows had pulleys and weights? When they worked, you could pull the window up or down and it would stay in place. The counter balanced weights did all the work. The weights ran in channels on the sides of the windows. Over time the ropes would break and the weights crashed down to the bottom. Eventually all those old houses had sticks to prop the windows up.

My first house had those old style windows. Feeling ambitious, I replaced all the ropes. It took careful sanding and lubrication to make everything work perfectly. While it was kinda neat to get everything working, they were still old windows. I repaired the old storm windows and that helped with heat loss. However, those channels for the window weights were uninsulated and drafty. No help for it.

From now on, I'm going to keep windows as simple as possible. Clever features complicate things that don't need complicating.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Florida Memories

A few years ago we sailed our Oday 19 down the west coast of Florida. We put in at Bayport, which is about 30 miles north of Tarpon Springs. We sailed all the way down to Bahia Honda in the Keys.

This photo is of the old bridge. It was a great place to look over the ocean. At night the islands looked like a string of pearls in the ocean.

Every evening we'd gather on the beach with other boaters staying in the marina. This was a typical sunset. The crew would bring snacks and we'd drink sundowners.

This state park is on the dirty side of the hurricane. Landfall was just to the west of it. I've no idea how it looks now.

My lovely wife and I have a lot of great memories of the Florida Gulf Coast and the Keys. We'd planned on going back to a lot of the same places this winter. Maybe we will, but it just might break my heart.

Lots of friends in family still in Florida. It will be a day or two before I know how everyone makes out.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Zero Day

Long distance trail hikers have the concept of a “zero day.” That's a day when they take it easy and hike zero miles.

I think you don't have to be a hiker to have a zero day. Saturday was my lovely wife and I's zero day. The week just caught up with us. We both woke up achy and sore with upset tummys. If we really had to function we could have pushed through it We didn't have to.

Friday we buried my cousin. As an only child my cousins were more like brothers and sisters to me. He was only 57, two years younger than me. He was a kind man and loved to joke around. For me the saddest thing was having to watch his mother. Parents should not have to bury their kids.

Well, for the rest of us life goes on. However, some days it just goes on a slower pace. Better to take the occasional zero day rather than wait until we get really sick and have to stop.


Saturday, September 9, 2017


I was talking to someone who normally spends winters in Key West Florida. He's already checked out camping places in Arizona. Like me, he wonders if the Keys will be open for tourists in a few months. If bridges, power, and the water supply are taken out, it could be some time before the area opens to tourists. Right now it's all speculation. However, he's smarter than me to have a backup winter plan in place.

I remember after the last batch of hurricanes came through Florida. There was damage, but it was limited to certain areas. Although the state was hit by a number of storms, none swallowed the whole state.

Even so, there were a lot of homeless people. Some were living in FEMA trailers. Many were living in tents located in unofficial camps. I remember one homeless camp behind a scrap yard that was huge.

Some of the official campgrounds had a lot of working people who had lost their homes. A few had jobs that they were going to every day. I remember school buses stopping at the campground to pick up kids. It was definitely a different vibe than the normal happy go lucky vacation campers.

I'm emotionally torn right now. If the state does open for business, they could really use tourist dollars. However, if resources are tight, I don't want to take away from the residents. It's not fun to party among shell shocked survivors.

So I'm In a wait and see mode right now. While Arizona is a popular place with snowbirds, it's too far from the ocean for my tastes. Maybe instead of buying last minute sailboat items I'll be buying extra insulation to get through another winter. Time will tell.

I've come to think of Florida as my second home and know a lot of good people down there. May they stay safe.


Friday, September 8, 2017

Trust in God

I've been paying close attention to the situation in Florida. There's something that a lot of people said that's driving me nuts. Over and over I hear people on barrier islands that say they are going to stay. The best scientific evidence indicates they should evacuate. History has shown that those islands should be evacuated.

Some say they trust in God so they are staying.

I'm a man of faith. I believe in miracles. However, I'd be evacuating out of those islands. Heck, I'd have left two days ago.

That does not mean I lack faith. The way I see it is that God gave me gifts and he wants me to use them. One of my gifts is a fully functional brain. God expects me to use that brain to make good decisions.

Not only that, as a former firefighter, I feel for those guys who'll have to recover bodies. Trust me, It's never fun to haul out mangled drowned human beings. Do those first responders a solid and save them the burden. I still get nightmares years later.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

We are the crazy ones?

Day in, day out, a lot of us bloggers stress the importance of being prepared for emergencies. Somehow that makes us the subject of ridicule. Most of us do not want anything bad to ever happen. We do not want to have to deal with an emergency. Should one happen we want to be prepared. That is not a bad thing.

Now we are seeing people lose their minds because a storm is coming. Grocery stores are having everything stripped from their shelves. Preppers are not there. They already have what they need. Every prepared person is one less person in the mob at the store.

The hardware stores are getting stripped of everything from plywood to screws. Now it seems to me, if you are in an area where putting plywood over your windows is necessary, you'd keep that stuff in storage. In the old days people in snow country would put up storm windows for the winter. They didn't throw them out in the spring and buy new in the fall. Wise people stay prepared for what might come.

There are people who are in a panic because bottled water is hard to come by. The vast majority of those people have perfectly safe drinking water right from their taps. Fill up containers from your sink and save yourself a trip to the store. If you lack jugs, do what they did in the old days and fill up all your pots and pans. Fill up the bathtub.

If you think you may have to evacuate, evacuate. Sooner is better than later. If you guess wrong and wait too late, you could die. Weigh that against maybe looking a tiny bit foolish for leaving too early. That should not be a hard decision.

On a personal note, there are folks I know in the Virgin Islands right now. I hope they are well. I suspect it will be some time before anyone hears from them.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Rinse, Lather, and Repeat

Hurricane Irma, as of the time I wrote this post, looks like it will impact Florida. Of course the models have an area of uncertainty. A few hundred miles one way or the other is the difference between disaster and a near miss.

The nation is just now come to grips with the magnitude of destruction that Hurricane Harvey left behind. We really do not need another storm to deal with. However, right now it looks bad. Irma is a huge storm. Not only that, there's another storm right behind it. Then, just to make things interesting, there's a troubling disturbance in the southern Gulf.

It's going to be bad in the Caribbean Islands. Some are better able to handle storms than others. Places like the low lying Bahamas are going to have a rough time.

In the United States my immediate concern is the Florida Keys. If I was there now, I'd be packed up and heading north. Most of the computer models show the Keys getting hit. Here's the thing about the Keys, there's a lot of people on those islands. There is one road in. During normal times traffic backups lasting for hours is common. Getting out at the last minute will be impossible.

Here's one more thing most people don't realize. The only source of fresh water in the Keys is a single pipeline. If you survive the storm, the pipeline won't.

If you've got a boat in the Keys, do your best to secure it, but then get the heck out of Dodge. There are a lot of boats in Marathon in the mooring field. Under normal conditions, it's a pretty protected anchorage. It is not a hurricane hole. It is not a safe place to ride it out. Take a bus, rent a car, book a flight -get out. If you have no money at all, start pedaling on a bicycle. At least you'll make it out of the Keys before the storm hits.

I'm told that hotels in North Central Florida are already booked. Personally, I wouldn't consider stopping until the mountains of Georgia.

Interesting times ahead. Keep an eye on the weather. Remember it's better to leave too early than too late. Don't let worrying about stuff cost you your life.


Music Festival Weekend

My lovely wife and I, along with many family and friends, went to a music festival over the weekend. Rock Farmer Records put on their first camping/music festival at Harvest Moon Farm in Newbury Vermont.

We pulled into the RV section and had plenty of room. Most folks were in the tenting section. In the center of the tent section was the huge bonfire. The gathering was informal around the fire, but the music was amazing. I'm told it went on until 3 a. m.. I did not and was glad the RV section was a bit removed so we got some sleep.

Sunday was a cold and rainy day. We claimed spots under the tents, put on our rain gear and enjoyed the music. Great time was had by all.

We really enjoyed this festival. It wasn't too big so everything was close, but it was big enough to have some great acts.


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Paths of the Nomads

My lovely wife and I are busy planning our fall/winter trip. There are a number of things we are watching out for. We've been planning on heading to East Texas at the end of November to visit family. Now we are not sure if they will even be in Texas by then. That all depends on how the flooding affected their house. That information won't come to us for a few days yet.

Of course, the hurricane season isn't done. There's a category 3 spinning around in the Atlantic right now. Behind that is yet another potential storm.

Hurricane damage is not repaired overnight. My lovely wife and I were looking at some places to camp while were in Texas. Those places have been hit with heavy flooding. We no longer plan on going to them. They may not reopen by the time we are in the area, or will be open but still recovering. It's just as easy to go somewhere else.

I remember years back when we stumble across an interesting little campground in Mississippi. It was a great base from which to visit area attractions. That place was scrubbed clean off the map by a hurricane. It was never rebuilt.

It's not just storm damage that we avoid. My lungs were damaged when I was a firefighter. Places with bad air pollution are no go areas for me. That's one more reason for me to avoid a lot of big industrial cities.

It's not only urban areas that have problems. Toxic algae blooms create some nasty air conditions. In the past we've changed sailing destinations to avoid red tide. Also, cyano algae from Lake Okeechobee can pollute both the west and east coast of Florida. We pay close attention to the conditions in the lake. Too much winter rain can be an environmental disaster. Agricultural run off feeds the toxic algae.

My lovely wife and I have avoided areas with wild fires. Once we hurriedly pulled up stakes to get out of an area with a high tornado threat. As luck would have it, that area we left was badly hit less than 12 hours later.

The thing about being foot loose and fancy free is that we have options.


Friday, September 1, 2017


I was debating if I should bother getting any heating oil for the fall. Since we plan on heading south at the end of November, the heating season would not be that long for me. The situation with the Texas oil refineries inspired me to get a delivery. Shortages and price hikes may be in the works.

Wood is my main source of heat, but the furnace makes good backup. If I'm sick or injured, it's nice not to have to feed the woodstove. If we go away for a few days, there's no need to try and find someone to light the stove.

I'm not too worried about gasoline for the car. It gets terrific gas mileage so a price hike doesn't affect it all that much. The diesel in the van will get topped off. It runs mostly on waste veggie oil, but the engine and veggie tank have to be warmed up on diesel first.

In a real pinch I could use some of that heating oil in van as a diesel substitute. They are chemically quite similar. It's against the law as heating oil does not have road tax added to it. However, in an emergency you do what you have to do.

Previous Gulf refinery and pipeline problems caused supply issues on the East Coast. I haven't head of any problems yet, but it's not something they like to advertise. The threat of shortage can cause one if everyone decides to top off at the same time. My readership isn't large enough to cause that to happen, but I did want to give a heads up. The only shortages and price hikes I've heard of are right in the disaster zones.

If you've experienced shortages before you've probably already have a plan.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

60 Knots Against the Wind

Our sailboat can go 60 knots against the wind -when on its trailer and pulled by the van. Recently my lovely wife expressed how glad she was we can do that. We are not the type of people to stay in harm's way if we can avoid it.

The current hurricane situation is what brought that out. She likes the idea of being able to pull the boat out of the water and move. 24 hours later we can be 1200 miles away. Under normal driving conditions, I've often traveled that many miles in a day. That's an average speed of 50 miles per hour. Of course, we travel 60 to 70 miles per hour. Our average drops to 50 when we account for meals, fuel land bathroom stops.

By the way, a lot of our fuel stops don't happen at gas stations. Usually we at least start our trips with a full load of 4.5 gallon jugs of waste veggie oil. When we stop at a rest area, I'll take a moment and pour a couple jugs of veggie in the tank.

While I've often traveled 1200 – 1700 miles with little rest, I rarely do that anymore. Traveling with the van makes it pretty easy to pull into a free parking area and spend the night. Rather than drive until I turn into a zombie, I get a good night's sleep on the full sized bed in the back. It takes longer to get somewhere, but I'm not totally beat when I arrive.

It is nice to know I can go the distance if needed. Looking at the current weather map of the United States, one might have to drive a longs ways to avoid nasty weather. My lovely wife became a bit unsettled by the size of the current hurricane induce disaster. She likes the idea of not being stuck on a boat that cannot be moved with a trailer. It's early to get damage assessments, but I'm betting not many boats survived anywhere near the hurricane. That's a sobering thought.

When and if we do get a bigger boat, we will always have hurricane holes in mind. We did get a small taste of that when we had our Ranger sailboat. While we didn't get a hurricane, it was an unusually active thunderstorm and tornado period. We often headed for protected areas to sit out poor conditions.

This coming winter we aren't going to worry about that so much. If conditions are too bad to be on the water, we won't be on the water. There are times I wonder if what I really want is a bigger trailer sailor. There are pros and cons, like anything else.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Back to van projects

Overall, we've really enjoyed our ambulance, converted to mini camper, converted to run on waste veggie oil. Sometimes we run into issues, mostly do to the fact that it's a Wheeled Coach ambulance package grafted onto a Ford one ton van. The fact that I've grafted on a custom experimental fuel system doesn't help much either. Sometimes the pieces just do not work all that well together.

Take, for example, the second starting battery. This is my current pet peeve. Since it's a giant 7.3 liter turbo diesel shoe horned into a van, there's not a lot of room in there. They barely squeezed in one of the starting batteries under the hood. The second battery is located in the Wheeled Coach part.

The schematics show the battery on the passenger side of the vehicle. Nope. It's not there. It's on the driver's side, squeezed into a tight corner. I did not even know it was there when I installed the veggie tank, filter assembly, and 6 way valve. The new veggie parts cut off access to the second battery.

Even if the tank wasn't there it would have been tough to get to. A trained monkey with extra long arms and the ability to work blind might have had a good shot at it. Normal humans on the other hand . . .

So I've been giving it the old college try. I've ignored the problem and hoped not to have to deal with it. (what, where you do go to college?) Okay, to give it a real college try I'd also have had to order a pizza and drink a few cheap beers. Unfortunately, that's not a long term solution.

The second battery is getting pretty weak. I've made up for it by getting a really good Interstate starting battery, the largest and most powerful that would fit. It's reached the point where the bad battery is draining the good battery. To prevent that I've wired up a solar panel so that it can be switched from the auxiliary (3rd) battery that I use camping to the charging batteries. That's fine when I'm not camping, but not really a fix.

I've been dreading pulling the veggie tank. My fear is that after removing the tank and all the hoses, battery access would still be too tight for my huge ham hands. Today I figured out what to do. That battery really needs is its own access panel. I'm going to cut open the side of the van and put my own compartment door. There's a nice piece of heavy aluminum plate in my scrap pile that should do the job nicely.

Sometimes you just have to break out the power tools have at it.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

When to Evacuate

Do you bug out or do you bug in? The situation in the Houston area is a clear example of the problem.

My wife's parents bugged out. Actually, they were out of Texas and decided not to come back until it was all over. I've a sister-in-law in the Houston area. Her and her family have decided to bug in. So far, they are doing well.

One thing that became very clear is that you cannot rely on the government to tell you when to bug out. There were conflicting suggestions between state and local officials. There are people who decided to stay then later tried to bug out only to get stuck in their vehicles.

If you are going to bug out do it early. Don't wait for an official pronouncement. If and when that happens the roads will quickly turn into long parking lots. That's what happened to my sister-in-law during the Rita evacuation. They spent a long time stuck on the highway and never made it to their destination. They were fortunate that a church took them in for the night. No doubt the memory of that failed exodus is one reason they decided to shelter in place.

Fairly recently I posted a blog about the advantages of having an inflatable kayak to bug out in. I bet a lot of Texas folks would have loved to have a boat like that right now. A heavy duty, large capacity inflatable kayak will get you out of trouble. They are tough enough not to get punctured on debris and light enough to drag over shallow spots.

The big threat now is flooding. However, there are plenty of other reasons to get out of Dodge. Wildfires, civil unrest, hazardous material releases, and who knows what else. The trick to a successful evacuation is to leave early. Better to have the occasional false alarm rather than become a victim.

If you decide to bug in, make sure you have all you need. We see that this storm is going on a lot longer than expected. As the storm continues, more people will run out of resources and need rescue. Having a plan B is a good idea.

My prayers and concerns are with the people of Texas and Louisiana right now.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Better Together

We have a lot of division in this country right now. The blue states and red states don't get along. California wants to cut itself off from the rest of the country. Much of the rest of the country wants to let them go. The south and the north are opening up old wounds. The center part of the country hates being called “fly over country.” It goes on and on.

Texas is one of those places that sometimes gets vocal about becoming an independent country. Sure, they were independent once, but if you study History you'll see most Texans wanted to join the rest of the union as fast as possible. Mexico was still a concern and a threat.

If you travel the country you'll see there are big differences from one area to another. What's normal in one place is exotic in another. For me, that makes travel in the United States interesting. If everyone was the same, I might as well stay home.

Right now Texas in in the middle of a horrible storm. Damages will be in the many billions of dollars. If they were an independent country, they'd be in serious trouble. Fortunately, they are part of the United States. The rest of the nation will pitch in and help. Even New Yorkers will help, in spite of the fact that a few Texas politicians complained about helping New York after Hurricane Sandy.

Americans squabble all the time. As long as the conflict is kept to the level of a family squabble we'll be Okay. Families might fight among themselves, but unite when times get tough. Take heart Texas, the rest of the country has your back. We are stronger together than apart.