Monday, September 19, 2016

Basic Frugality

Great article about frugality at The Simple Dollar:

Yes, a voluntary lifestyle that can free you from debt and "keeping up" with...anyone!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Routines for better or worse

For some reason this thought has been bouncing around in my head for a few days. Probably because I broke a routine and found myself out and about, unarmed. For me, that was highly unusual and started me thinking about good routines and those that can be hazardous to your health.

While I was working for the military, we had our annual force protection/anti-terrorism training that warned us against some types of predictable physical routines. If the bad guys know you'll be at the corner of Hollywood and Vine every weekday between 7:00 and 7:15 a.m., you could become a target of opportunity for kidnapping, assassination, etc.. We were encouraged to vary our routes to and from work and in our personal lives.  That level of breaking routines is a good thing.

My husband has a daily routine that includes coffee, walking the dog, practicing his music and exercising.  I'm a bit more random about when I do things, other than morning coffee.  The day I failed to arm myself when I dressed was a fluke. We decided to bathe the dog that morning, so I didn't wear a weapon to the shower stall. Kept forgetting after that. Not the best way to break routine. Twice I found myself crossing the country road on foot, well away from the house, alone and unarmed. Fortunately, all was well -- this time.  In an emergency situation, this may have been an unrecoverable mistake.

I'm a locker and turner. I lock the doors to the house as a matter of routine. To me, it's part of the action of closing an exterior door. I also turn lights off as I leave a room or walk through the house. My husband doesn't have those automatic behaviors. As a result, I am occasionally startled to find an unlocked exterior door in a room with a blazing light.

So are you aware of your routines during the day or week? Are some good for your life, health and safety? Could others be hazardous in an emergency? What are your contingency plans for varying these routines during non-routine times? Now is the time to ponder these and prepare your thinking in case of emergency!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Relocating out west? Random thoughts to consider

If so, just a few random tips you may not want to learn the hard way.  I have personal stories behind most of these, but we don't need to waste the electrons.

- If you aren't living in the city, you'll eventually need all-wheel or 4-wheel drive.

-Your vehicle needs more than 6 inches of ground clearance, even in good weather.

- If you can't stand a few creatures occasionally sharing your house with you, don't move here. We've captured, relocated or killed uninvited scorpions, vinegaroons, geckos, moths, junebugs, centipedes, birds, bats, various rodents, etc. from inside the house. The yard has hosted many larger, more scary creatures.

- If you look at a prospective property in good weather, check nearby for little valleys above the property. Could be that the drainage will cover your back patio in mud during the rainy season.

- Flash flooding is deceptive. Never cross a flowing wash unless you can CLEARLY see the line in the middle of the road. If you can't, your vehicle probably can't take you across safely.

-Always have at least a gallon of water per person in your vehicle. I drive alone in remote places often, so carry a kit that will keep me for up to a week.

- Never ask a rancher how many cattle/sheep/whatever critter they have. It's like asking how much money they have or their net worth.

- Don't ask a rancher where or how much land they run their cattle/sheep or other critters on. Not only is it like the question above, but it's often more complicated than you want to hear (some owned, some leased) unless you know them well and have some time to listen. For example, a friend of my brother's runs his cattle on 4 different properties, some owned some leased, more than a 50 mile drive to see the closest edge of them all.

- Wherever you are, don't get co-opted into making or promoting a change outside your own property for at least a year. Sometimes, recently moved city-dwellers will do this to the newbies and it will create a lasting rift between you and the longer-time residents. These ventures can also have harmful effects to other residents and get you sued. Example 1: The push for paving roads happens often -- recent resident city-slicker realizes his [insert expensive car brand] is getting dirty or hit by gravel and wants road paved. This raises everyone's taxes, diverts funds from important meaningful projects, etc.,  Can actually make flooding and erosion problems worse.   If you wanted paved roads and they weren't there when you moved in, suck it up. It should have been on your list of must-haves when you looked at the property. Garage the Ferrari and buy a beat-up truck.   Example 2: (This really happened in a ranchette conservation subdivision near me with a central lake/pond)  One recent city-slicker guy thought the pond bottom was too gooey and wanted to assess other members $3000 to empty the pond and concrete the bottom for a better 'swimming-hole experience.' Turns out that 'pond' was the place that recharged the local aquifer providing everyone's domestic water. When the pond was emptied, but before it was concreted (waiting for the engineering and cost estimates), wells started going dry. Project was halted, pond refilled, wells recovered, bullet dodged.  It would have cost a lot more to jackhammer all that concrete out.

- Dust. Learn to live with it. Yes, vacuum and dust regularly, but it will be back quickly so don't obsess. The important things to dust are your electronics (refrigerator coils, air-conditioning filters, etc.) and vacuum around your baseboards (where the dustbears grow).

- Consider renting for 18 months to see if you are allergic to the place. I've never had worse allergies than in the times I lived in Texas and Arizona.

- NEW ITEM: Amazon Prime is SOOOO worth it when otherwise you wait until the monthly trip to the big town and then have to shop for it!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

September is preparedness month

The always-fabulous "K" at Planning and Foresight has a wonderful series for National Preparedness month. No reason to gild a lily by duplicating his effort. Hope you'll stop over daily, better yet follow him if you aren't already.

Monday, September 5, 2016

It's that time of year!!

Time to wintersow!  What the heck is that?  Time to plant your cold hardy and pre-spring vegetables. Root vegetables can be planted now for harvest in the spring. Cold hardy perennial vegetables can be planted and harvested throughout the winter, location dependent

Here in the high desert, I've sewn 2 types of kale, 2 types of rutabagas, 2 types of parsnips, beets and Swiss chard.  These are in a raised bed with a net to keep the birds out long enough to have plants grow. Once the real chill sets in and nights approach freezing, the net cover will be replaced with heavier but translucent non-woven fabric or clear plastic.

In past years, I've been able to harvest kale and chard several  times during the winter. The root vegies are new to me.

Although they are mid-website change, is a great place to learn more if you are a beginner like me. Methods to get a jump on spring are also on the website.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Food storage for small spaces

How do you fit more nutrition into a small home? I've written about 'nutritional density' before, but I believe it is a concept still overlooked by too many people. Our home is small and has only one closet. We've added storage furniture and re-done kitchen and bathroom to include more storage. We also manage more than 6 months'-worth of canned food storage without it being visible or obvious to the casual visitor.

How can we do that? Nutritional density is the key. For a given volume of storage, like a #10 can, how much basic nourishment can you store? Not looking at vitamins and trace minerals, just calories and some balance of protein, fat, fiber and carbs. You may think it's all the same, but you'd be surprised! For example, a #10 can of white rice has more than twice the calories, three times the carbs and twice the protein of a #10 can of potato flakes. Black beans have about the same total calories as a can of white rice, but the beans have three times the protein and 6 times the fiber.   You'd get even more nutrition serving those beans with hard white wheat prepared like rice than with actual rice. Fiber is important to keep your plumbing humming, so don't neglect it as a basic component of nutrition.

You can calculate the nutritional density of a #10 can using the nutrition information on the label. For your initial dense storage, try to have 6,000 to 9,000 calories per can with at least 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per serving. Stay away from foods with more than 20% of the carbs listed as  sugars, except dry milk. The sugars in dry milk are milk sugars, so hard to have dry milk without those.

The 'beans and rice' or wheat options still leave you with a problem, despite being nutritionally dense.  They contain virtually no fats. You will starve over several months without some added fats and carbohydrates. Remember the stories of 'rabbit starvation?'  Some foods like peanut powder and fatty canned meats (cooked burger crumbles or pork sausage crumbles) need to be in your long-term storage if you aren't otherwise self-sufficient for fats. Raising rabbits isn't the answer for fats, but tree nuts, chickens, pigs and cows will help. These will have shorter shelf-life and must be rotated more often due to oils going rancid. Keeping extra butter (including canned) and olive oil on hand, and rotating it regularly will also contribute to keeping this balance.

Another important high-density storage item is a stash of sprouting seeds. These don't take up a lot of space, and a little goes a long way. If you have long winters or are far from produce, sprouts can add both vitamins and variety to your basic fats-carbs-protein diet.

Once you have your basics stored, if there is space left over, add some fun foods. These monotony-breakers will be important if your local emergency lasts more than a few weeks. You can choose from fruits, puddings or bakery mixes. Another choice is to add some 'fast food' that needs only water to prepare a full meal. Foods like Mountain House beef stew or scrambled eggs could break the monotony or be useful if cooking fuel is in short supply.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Random Thoughts about Cash Reserves

The cash reserve addressed here is the real green stuff you can hold in your hand, stored in your home, or nearby.  Having it in a bank safe deposit box won't help you if the banks are closed -- it may also be illegal in your state.  This is your no-BS emergency-nothing's-working fund. It's not your mad money and is separate and above a savings account or other prudent reserve.  That's not to say that if your 'emergency' is being laid off from work you couldn't use it -- that's an emergency in my book!  This is for the times when ATM's are down or empty, stores will only accept cash and you need something desperately, or you still have bills to pay regardless the emergency. Many websites have addressed this subject well, at least in theory. Just thought I'd add a few comments on the practice of a cash reserve.

First is deciding how much should be in your reserve. What's reasonable or affordable is different for everyone. It's based on your monthly requirements, how much income you have and how much cash you can afford to have sitting on the sidelines. Sometimes it's 6 month's, but shooting for 1 month-worth is a good starting point. If that's more than you can do, go for at least a few hundred dollars - two hundred is certainly better than nothing.

I began in 2009 when I received a small bonus at work. The gov reserved 20% for taxes, so I took 10% of what was left and turned it into my first cash reserve 'payment' to myself. It was a few $50's and a $20 or two, for about $200. I tried to faithfully add another $20 each pay period until I had a enough to cover a month's worth of bills and necessities.

Eventually, I had my reserve. I have left it alone in its secret place. Now I realize that cash, like food storage, should be rotated. Since starting the cash reserve, several bills have actually changed, including the $10's and $20's. That's one more task to add to the list: rotate old cash reserve bills. Seems odd, but a bunch of old bills could signal to smart people that you started preparing for hard times years ago, and get them wondering what else you have socked away.

I've also been thinking about denominations. What is the right balance of denominations?  For discrete storage, larger denominations mean a smaller stack to store. If used during a period of higher prices, larger bills would be more convenient. If using them in a crisis when prices are very fluid, larger bills will be more expensive to use. The likely scenario is a $10 item becomes a $20 item if you only have a $20 and the seller claims to have no change.  Some mix of small and larger bills seems to make sense.  It might make sense to have 10% in each of $5's and $1's bills (maybe only 5% in ones...), 20% each in $10's, $50's and 100's and the rest in $20's. For $1000, that would mean $400 in 130 small bills (85 bills if keeping only $50 in one dollar bills and replacing with $10's)  and $600 in 16 bills for your twenties and larger.  That leaves a fairly small physical target to stash for a rainy day.  

As for where to stash, it's not an easy task. Probably should not be in the bed or bathroom as apparently robbers look there first.  Stash it in a water (fire?) and bug proof container of a type similar to its resting/hiding place. If that's near a lot of metal, use a metal container. Don't let it be the only metal container in the room full of wood and plastic.  Above all else, it needs to be in a place you will REMEMBER. A cash reserve you can't find in an emergency is the same as not having one.