Sunday, March 18, 2018

Another garden experiment: Modified fruit wall

We have 2 of our many fruit trees, a nectarine and an apricot, that set fruit every year but never produce. Invariably, we'll have a late freeze and lose it all. The freezes are just enough below 32 to nip the fruit. I was about to give up and offer the nice trees to anyone willing to dig them out and move them out of our little river valley. Yes, people who live just a few tens of feet higher in the valley get beautiful fruit. Here in the low spot, the drupes just don't get the early heat they need to keep their fruit.

If you haven't browsed Low Tech Magazine, I recommend it. There are some great ideas. My latest experiment is a knock-off of a European fruit wall. The article is under the 'obsolete technlogy' header. These were essentially high stone walls that function as heat-sinks to allow fruit to grow well out of their normal range. Back in the 1600's, when transportation was too slow to move many perishables, fruit walls allowed even citrus to be grown as far north as England.

So, our experiment, in the spirit of fruit walls, is to place thermal mass, in the form of dark lava rocks, under our trees. We're hoping that we've put enough rock under them to raise the night-time temperature by 4 degrees on a freezing night. That's all we need.

The rocks are stacked in a ring that starts about 3 feet from the trunk, and is about a foot wide and a foot high. Already, buds have popped open above the 'wall' but not yet open higher up the tree. I'll let you know if it gets us some fruit!

UPDATE: For the first time, I have a tree full of nectarines.

Friday, March 9, 2018

My Plan for CA

I try not to be political, but this California sanctuary situation is bothersome to me. While I am a big 10th amendment supporter, I believe national and border security and immigration are the federal realm. Yup, I've thought about it often. If I were president, I'd check into the feasibility of this plan:

1. Without notice to the state, remove all TSA, ATC, ICE and CBP personnel from the state. Leave the border-crossings and airports unmanned. Choose which border crossings to leave totally open or locked down tight.  Establish checkpoints on all US highways and railroads at adjacent state borders.

2. Dissolve the 9th circuit court of appeals and implement a re-districting plan to break up the 9th circuit area into not less than 3 districts, none of which is based in CA. Any 9th Circuit court orders issued from the day of item 1 (above) are null and void.

3. Begin plans to move all federal offices and employees to other states. This includes the new Circuit Courts, EPA regional offices, passport offices, etc..

4. Provide notice that if the all sanctuary state and city policies are not repealed within 30 days, no California-based businesses will be allowed to compete for federal contracts. Implement as promised if laws remain in force.

4. Give notice that plans in item 3 above will be implemented 90 days following item 1.  For Federal jobs that can't be readily moved, such as naval bases, restrict personnel to the bases. Move families onto the bases or to other states within another 60 days.

5. Remove any other federal economic subsidies to California within 180 days.

I wonder if this post will get me banned from blogspot...

Saturday, February 24, 2018

10 Random Suggestions for the Ladies

I'm listing some of the things I do to keep my home emergency-ready. We've had two power outages since the new year began. We would have been fine if they had lasted much longer.

1. Ensure that dishes and laundry are done before bedtime. Doesn't mean it has to be your chore, just on your checklist. I will run a partial load in the dishwasher before bed if it contains key items I use often. I'll carry a partial load of laundry until the next day if it doesn't contain an item with low back-up, like my DH's jeans.

2.   Ensure non-electric backup for critical 'appliances,' even if you have generator back-up. Example: I was recently ill and was on liquids and puréed foods only. If my mini-chop had no electricity, I have a non-electric inexpensive chopper/grinder that could backfill to make purees for babies and invalids.

3. Push to ensure backup heat sources. Especially if electricity is required, such as gas heat with an electric blower. In most cases, that heat won't come on if the blower has no power.

4. Learn the skills that your body can manage. Firearms, guard duty, patrolling, gardening, canning and other food preservation, outdoor baking, sewing (both repair and new garment construction), etc.

5. Keep the best of the old. If you have outgrown your underwear, keep the two best bras, undies, camisoles, etc. that you have outgrown. In an extended emergency, they'll fit in a few weeks. 

6. Lose the losers.  Go through your stuff. That shirt you don't really like and rarely wear: unless it is a specialty item for hunting or hiking, sell or give it away. Make space for the important stuff. 

7. Keep fabric on hand. Some of this can be in the form of extra sheets, regular and flannel. Consider the reuse when selecting a pattern: will DH, kids, self look good in this as a skirt, shirt, etc.. Have a basic pattern or two as well, such as loose shirts, draw-string pants or skirts and a jacket. Some come with variable sizes in one pattern. If an emergency goes long, you may need replacements or something different to stay comfortable.  I also keep unbleached muslin, flannel, and canvas on hand. On Amazon, I bought a 50+ yard bolt of 108 inch wide bridal netting for the garden. It holds up well and covers very well to keep insects off the tender crops and fruit. 

8. Learn and practice sanitation and first aid. The men in my life tend to take this for granted, which could sicken everyone. At minimum, how to establish a temporary or permanent latrine, hand sanitation, kitchen sanitation and managing injuries requiring disinfection or stitches - learn the how-to and keep supplies on hand. Someone needs to be the 'urgent care' triage. Pick you.

9. Have functional furniture, then use it. When I can opt for a piece with storage versus not, I go for storage. My coffee table is a chest that is also a file cabinet, for example. When we bought bedside tables, I opted for a model with 3 generous drawers rather than one or none. In the bottom drawer, I keep a rechargeable LED lantern, an old-fashion non-electric phone and a Larry light flashlight. When the power goes out, I can find these easily and no one else messes with them. 

10. Despite any complaints from others about 'junk' or 'taking up too much space', ensure the basics of food, warmth, water, first aid and security for at least two weeks for your family. If you have extended family that you can afford to include, do.  Give some items instead of junk as birthday and Christmas gifts.  Last week, in her birthday loot,  I gave my sister a small Black Diamond lantern I'd gotten at a great discount from Sierra Trading Post. Literally, the next night we had a power outage. She thanked me profusely that she could use both hands and read during the outage. She had only hand-held flashlights!  Even better than 'doing' for them, convince them to do it for themselves or contribute to a combined emergency readiness plan with supplies.  

Please add your tip to the list below!

UPDATE: Bonus recommendation: This is a great time to check your solar path and warning lights. Most are powered by rechargeable AA batteries. Look out and ID the dim and dark ones. Gather them and recharge the batteries in your electric or solar recharger. This will give them new life. Eventually they'll need to be replaced with better quality batteries like the Duracell or Goal Zero rechargeables. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Fungus Amongus

These days, most of us don't really think about fungal infections other than the occasional athlete's foot. Much of our ability to see fungus as a nuisance rather than a health crisis results from our high level of sanitation. Even when we have "the itch," readily-available over-the-counter products fix it quickly. A long-term emergency may present a different situation.

Once sanitation becomes more difficult -- bathing from a bucket, wearing clothes longer between washes, perspiring mor ein summer or being cooped up inside more in winter -- fungus will seize the opportunity to flourish.

You may think that if you live in the arid west, it isn't a concern. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Here in the high desert, I had a fungal infection which presented as dime-sized round flaky spots on an arm for 2 years because even the dermatologist didn't suspect fungus. He said 'numular psoriasis.' A later MD prescribed some ketoconazole (anti-fungal) body shampoo and my 'numular psoriasis' was gone after 3 showers.

Another time I had a fungal respiratory infection from an air-conditioner at work that had a leak, and grew a nice big colony of fungus right over my desk. A month of fluconasole fixed that one, after several other antibacterial failed. The MD did not want to believe it could be fungal..

So how do you assess your susceptible to fungal infections? First is actually genetics. I am of mostly Northern European descent, and about 25% of us from that gene pool have an immune system that doesn't fight fungus well. Next is exposure. Fungual spores are everywhere, cold seasons and summer. Most require moisture to thrive, but not all do. I guess that means that fungus is a potential everywhere, always, but some people are more likely to start growing it on or in their bodies.

Prevention is, of course, best. Sanitation, dry sanitary facilities, drying yourself well, and changing socks and underwear at least daily will help. Letting your body dry out slightly if you can't bathe will also help. Ensure that your medical kit has a few tubes of various OTC anti-fungal is also important. If you have pets, keep veterinary anti-fungals for them as well, like oral ketoconazole or fluconazole. Ask your MD for a couple of bottles of 2% ketoconazole shampoo as well. It's not terribly expensive and a weekly or monthly scrub may keep fungal infections from running rampant in your group.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Storage cheese

We are cheese eaters. For both the protein and minerals, we eat a bunch. So what is a cheese eater to do if fresh isn't available? We don't have a root cellar or other colder storage spot beside the fridge, so waxing a lot of cheese wouldn't work well for us here, where summers exceed 100 degrees F for 60 or more days in summer.  I've tried 4 alternative forms and thought I'd share my findings.

First is Velveeta. It is shelf stable, but not long-term. It doesn't take heat well, but is useful for grilled cheese, macaroni, nacho/chile con quest or just eating a chunk. Not my favorite, but would work in a pinch. The down side is that it must be rotated once or twice a year, and it's not as cheap as it once was. If you don't eat it regularly already, it's probably not a good emergency storage choice because you'll waste a lot of it.

Next are the small cans of velveeta-like cheese, Bega. I say velveeta-like because that's what it tastes like to me. Perhaps slightly better, but still comparable. I'm not a big velveeta fan, so not a big Bega fan. The plus is that you can store it with other emergency food supplies without refrigeration and it will keep for a several years.

The next is freeze-dried. We've opened cans of shredded cheddar and cubed mozzarella. We never get far enough to rehydrate either. The cheddar is a fabulous hand-snack, which is how it disappears around here. You could mix it with other stable items, like nuts or small crackers, to use as a trail mix. I store some of this for emergencies.

My favorite future cheese is the Washington State Creamery Canned cheese.
This is real cheese in a can. It comes in several flavors, but I've only opened and eaten the cheddar. It's real white cheddar cheese, and very good. It seems expensive if you compare the price to a chunk of Cabot in the grocery store. If you compare it to Bega, it's a better deal, but there is a down side. You will need to store it in the back of the fridge for up to 15 years. Yes, it's canned, but it will go bad if left out in heat and changing temps for a long time. If the power goes, you'll still have wonderful cheese for a year or so. I think it's worth it. Be sure to buy right from WSU. Other retailers have it, but often at more than twice the price.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Surviving Survival Seed Packages

Yes, I have some boxes and cans of 'survival seeds.' (I use the term generically, not referring to any brand) I sure hope I never need to use them. If you have some, look at the packages. What do you see? A small number of warm season vegies with a small number of seeds in each.  IF you are successful with those crops, you have some food that can be canned or dried to help in the coming winter.  Is your assortment enough to sustain life? Probably not.

My seeds ignore other growing seasons and conditions, which could be critical in a long duration emergency. For those who don't live in the northernmost states, your other growing seasons can be productive if you have the right seeds stored.

For us in the high desert, we can plant cool season crops outdoors in March. These crops bring fresh greens and the accompanying vitamins and minerals to the table. Another planting season starts after the monsoon and as late as the first of October.  Root crops are a bonus item during this time. Rutabaga , turnip and beet greens are also a great addition to salads and soups.  Leaves can be harvested sparingly without hurting the tubers forming below. The tubers can be harvested in late spring, adding carbohydrates to your diet. We also plant parsnips at this time, but don't see the final product for almost a year.

Winter is a growing season for most. All you need are some trays, a glass bottle with some door screen and a window or grow light. Sprouts can be grown with minimal light and water. Add a tray of soil to the same seeds and let them grow a few days longer with light and you have Microgreens. Both will add needed nutrients to a winter diet of canned and dried food.

I set aside mixed seeds for both sprouting and microgreens, along with more root vegie seeds for my emergency garden. Otherwise, if your long-term emergency doesn't conveniently start at the beginning of your warm growing season, you could be out of luck for months.

My favorite source of both root vegies and mixes for microgreens and sprouting is Johnny's Selected Seeds.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Something you'd rather not know

For several years I enforced hazardous waste regulations on a federal property. I learned a lot about the primary law regulating these substances, or not. We found some very hazardous wastes fall through the cracks of the law. Others are specifically excluded for logical reasons.

An example of logical exclusion comes from copper mining and metal refining in the western US. A large fraction of copper comes from copper bound with sulfer, or copper sulfides. To refine to a relatively pure form of copper, sulfuric acid is a waste product that would be considered a hazardous waste. The law (RCRA) allows that if a waste product is a feedstock for another product, it is exempt from the hazardous waste laws and is managed under the hazardous materials laws. So, refiners sell the sulfuric acid to companies that make automotive batteries or otherwise need the acid for their products. This makes sense to me, and reduces the overhead of disposing of an otherwise useful waste product.

So why do I mention this? In trade with foreign nations, their products are usually required to comply with many US laws, including RCRA. However, the law does not define which hazardous wastes can or can't be used as a feedstock for another product.  Rubber and plastic items, already a chemical brew, can accommodate a lot of 'stuff' and retain their basic ability to take a utilitarian form.

Can I prove that this is happening? Not directly as I have no lab to prove it nor the cash to pay for lots of testing. Why do I suspect that this is happening?  Have you ever held a dog toy (made in a specific country that I won't name) to you nose and smelled it? Now do the same if you can find one made in the US. (I did this with Kong dog toys when you could still find them made in the US) Which do you want in your dog's mouth? Other items, like rubber door mats and some automotive enhancement products, like rubber-backed steering wheel covers, exhibit a similar sniff-test result.

Although US companies manufacturing in the US could do this, most don't because it is just not right.  They also know that their employees would eventually become whistle-blowers, and rightly so.

As you go about your daily commerce, and especially your preparedness activities, please pay attention to the country of origin and other aspects of items you purchase. Buy American when you can. Yes, it maybe a bit more expensive, but you have the benefits of our social values to better protect you from the possibility of legal poison for you, your family members and your pets.