Thursday, November 10, 2016

Taught by Rats

The summer rains were late this year, but very heavy. Everything that could germinate, bloom and produce seeds, did. As a result, we've had a bumper crop of pack rats as well. We learned this the hard way when my husband was having some trouble with his truck. Seems the pack rats had munched on $400-worth of wiring. This was our first such experience in more than 20 years of living here.

So we began taking more serious anti-rodent measures. First was keeping the hood raised when the truck was parked, and ensuring the truck was moveddaily, even if only a few feet. Because our dog loves chasing and catching small animals, poison is not an option for us. Mouse traps were placed below the vehicle. After the second trap disappeared, Dear Hubby wired them to somewhat flat surfaces in the engine compartment of the vehicle.  Still, no luck.

At the time, we had no concept of pack rats being significantly different from mice, at least size-wize. I had seen their burrows, but never the actual critter. After seeing one caught by a neighbor, we changed strategies. The body of the rat was a good 6 inches long, and the well-fed rascal was at least three inches in diameter. This was a horse, uh rat, of a different color.

Next came removal of brush piles and moving lumber storage to remove rat havens. The missing mouse traps were found in one of the small brush piles.

Bring on the rat traps. Yes, real, big traps. No, we did not go the have-a-heart rodent relocation route. The reasonable potential for rodent- or flea-borne disease here in the mountains of the southwestern US was not an acceptable risk. We chose the big plastic traps that operate like big, mean clothespins. The brand may be 'A better mousetrap' or something similar. We chose these because of the sanitary issues. You can release the deceased rodent and re-set the trap without touching the business end. When baiting with peanut butter, we use clean disposable utensils kept from adventures in fast food, then throw them away after one use because they contact the business end of the trap.

Today, we hit paydirt -- a lovely, well-fed 5 or 6 inch packrat (excluding tail length). We will continue with this strategy until the food chain returns our furry friends to the normal balance.

Morale of our story is to have both rat and mouse traps in your supplies if your preparedness is designed to cover events that may last several weeks.

Have you had rat-stravaganzas in your location?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

My Top 5 Small Multi-purpose Items

I really don't want a 50 lb pack as my Get Home bag, so I choose a lot of items that can serve more than one purpose. Sometimes, it is a primary purpose. Other times, the item can double as redundancy for another basic survival item in the bag or complement it to create a luxury.  A few of my favorites are listed below. I'm not listing the obvious items everyone carries, like a knife, fire-starter or water bottle. What are your favorite multi-purpose items?

1. Dental floss: It tends to be very strong. In addition to its obvious use, it can be used for sewing thread (ensure you have a needle that has a big enough eye), suture thread in a pinch, substitute for twine, making a crude shelter by tying corners of mylar blankets or tarps to spots or trees. I carry 4 X 10 yard mini-containers with cutters.

2. Small bottle of 91% isopropyl alcohol: I use a 2 ounce plastic dropper bottle from REI (test in store to be sure no air escapes when you squeeze it) useful for sterilizing stuff, a solvent, ear drops to prevent fungal infection after swimming, drying tinder and helping start a fire, cleaning skin around a wound. The 70% isopropyl (rubbing alcohol) isn't as useful as the 91%, especially for sterilization. These are usually side-by-side on the store shelves.

3.  Mylar blankets: In addition to other lightweight bedding and a heavy duty mylar tarp/blanket, I keep at least 3 of the small cheap ones in each bag for so many uses. Many articles have been written about these because they have so many uses such as a poncho, groundcloth, rainfly, sling, fire-reflector, foot-warmers and water proofers (before getting feet into cold water), etc..

4. Metal cup: whether a canteen cup or deep stainless cup (not those skimpy Sierra cups) these can be a major kitchen-creator. Use to boil water, mix food, scoop water from sources, catch rainwater to fill your bigger bottles, store a roll of TP in your pack to keep it dry and round, hold a tea light for fire-safety. Depending on which bag, mine is either a GI canteen cup with stove stand or a round cross-section 28 ounce cup which holds a roll of TP perfectly.  VERY WORST CASE you can soak the TP (in the metal cup) with the alcohol and light it to keep from freezing to death (this is the luxury item mentioned above -- a chemical stove). This is a very hot fire, so do it in a place where you can maximize saving the heat (small rock, earth or snow shelter) and keep safe from fire or melting something.

5. Tea Lights: in small metal/foil cups, the 100 for $8 or less kind, unscented.  First use is to prolong the life of your other fire-starters. Use 1 match to light the little candle and use the candle to light your splinters, tinder or alcohol dotted square of TP to start your fire. Heat source : in your metal cup in a small space made of your mylar blankets, you can actually warm hands, feet etc.. Heat water: half a canteen cup of water over a canteen-cup stove with a good tea light or two can give you a smokeless unscented fire for hot water in a short time. If accomplished in your mylar hooch, it will also warm the space somewhat.  I keep at least one empty plastic medicine bottle full of these in each of my 'bags.'

What are your multi-purpose favorites?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Winter Garden update

Less than a month ago, I sewed seeds for rutabaga, parsnips, beets chard and 2 types of kale. Parsnips were a bust with almost none germinating.  Beets were a close second for losers, with about 10 little plants. The kale, chard and Rutabagas are going gang busters. I sewed the ruta's heavily and am thinning them into my salad bowl. Baby rutabaga greens are quite yummy and tender. They have a very slight cabbage flavor at the end, which goes well with most spinach and lettuce mixes, or alone. The kale and chard will be ready to start picking soon!! I also found a forgotten kale in my other raised bed, It is covered in beautiful leaves that will be joining the rutabagas in the next few days. Such bounty!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A little help, please?

Recently, I've been posting from an iPad mini. When I try to add a photo to the posts, there is some seemingly random, odd subset of my photos available, and only when I select 'from my phone' as the source. Do any of you know how to access the photo library without uploading my photos to icloud. I refer not to have my life stored in some mystery location forever.

Do I need to go into the photo library and select something to make the specific photos available?

Thanks in advance!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Basic Frugality

Great article about frugality at The Simple Dollar:

http://www.thesimpledollar.com/what-i-wish-my-family-understood-about-my-frugal-lifestyle/

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!