First week burning wood

I have a good week under my belt burning wood and it is definitely a learning curve (and I still have a ways to go as it’ll change as the weather gets colder). First, I am glad I got the manometer so I can see what my draft is. A manometer uses pressure and/or suction to tell you what the pressure difference is visually using a liquid in a tube to show you the measurement. I am using this Dwyer manometer along with an insertion tip (this one, but I’ll be honest that I am not sure if it is the right one or not as it was a BEAR to get the tubing on the tip, I think it is meant for the next size up but I made it work). I can easily see if I am getting my minimum .04″ of draft or exceeding the .08″ max draft; I leave it hooked up all the time right now. Without running a barometric damper I was easily hitting .08″ when the furnace first fired up and .11-.12″ with the damper open and fire raging. Running at that level for extended times is either not safe or will make [… click to continue reading this post]

Feeling a bit more prepared – PTO generator

Two weekends ago I went and picked up a 12kw pto generator I had been eying on Craigslist for a couple months. It had dropped in price from $1400 (which I thought was high, but fair if you were going to buy a new one), to $1200, finally to $1000. For that I got the generator (about $1400 new for a 12kw, $1000 for a 7kw), pto shaft ($75 used to 200 new), a 3pt carryall the generator is mounted to ($100), and a full house disconnect / transfer switch (knife style rated to 200A, the guy told me $500 new and I believe it). My tractor has 19hp at the PTO, good for about 10kw continuous.

Last weekend was my preparing for winter weekend. Part of that was verifying the suicide cord was wired right, then shutting off the power to the house and running the house off the generator for a few minutes. I could barely tell when the well pump kicked on (here we have shallow wells and therefor only have about 1/2-1hp well pumps). I had previously checked the starting amperage (using a cheap Harbor Freight clamp on multi-meter) and it peaked at around 30 or [… click to continue reading this post]

Plants taking hold in the yard and stacking firewood

I have not started anything for a garden this year. Last year I had very discouraging results with really NOTHING producing even though I planted all manner of things that were well started indoors. So I haven’t really been in the mood to put a ton of effort into the garden when I’ve had other stuff going on. I’ve been busy getting back into shooting and making the shooting range has led to me being busy cutting and splitting firewood. I have probably 2-3 cords chopped, split, and stacked so far with a few more downed trees to take care of (smaller ones, so maybe another 1/2 cord).

I have been researching what wood burning appliance I want to put in the house. This was a very mild winter and we used 800 gallons of propane all year including water heating, clothes drying, and cooking, around $1200 at pretty low prices. Even at that, and if I were to BUY my wood, I could still save $300 a year. I was wanting an outdoor wood boiler for several reasons. I wouldn’t have to worry about the pain or ugliness of a chimney. Plus, I would be able to keep all [… click to continue reading this post]

A good, and productive weekend (and house project completion list)

So this past weekend was both fun and productive (not at the same time though). I got a few projects done as well as got some relaxation in next to a fire roasting marshmallows with the family. One of the projects I got done was putting up gutter guards, Menards had the cheap vinyl ones for free after rebate, so I got enough to cover the house. It does not take many leaves to completely clog up the gutters in a heavy rain. They should be OKAY come fall, but I know they won’t be sufficient come spring with the oak fronds coming down. I needed something to get me by in the mean time, the goal is to get the nice stainless and aluminum mesh covered ones. I am hoping that they go on sale at some point, $8 for 3′ will cost me about $250 to cover the gutter I have. I figured with the free ones that they are better than nothing, and all I would be out was sales tax and some time.

I have been using Google Keep to make check lists of projects that need done or have been done. This also has the [… click to continue reading this post]

Live in snow? Carry a shovel!

Do you live where there is snow in the winter time? If so, have a dang shovel in your car! A week or so ago we had a big snow come in on a day I had to do a bit of driving. As soon as I pull in the parking lot at work I see two cars off the road (on company property). One guy went off, his car in the snow bank distracted the other driver, and she meandered off the road. I stopped to help the one guy, he said he had a tow truck nearly there, to help the other person instead.

The other woman was out there with a windshield scraper trying to clear snow from around her tires. I normally carry a small collapsing snow shovel (a good one from when my Mom started driving). I’ve been doing some research on how to get cars out of a snowy ditch, and one of the off-roading forums the search led me to pointed out that a normal snow shovel is meant for scraping concrete clear, but not moving a lot of volume. Instead, a scoop shovel can quickly clear a lot of volume. So, the [… click to continue reading this post]

I used my winter survival kit

If you have perused my site or youtube channel, you may already have seen my winter car survival kit post/video. A few weeks back I had a chance to use this winter car kit. We had been having quite a bit of snow, but one evening it was particularly bad. The next morning I decided to take a different route to work, seeing as my normal route had a pretty steep curve and a few spots that seemed to accumulate snow and ice. Well, I shouldn’t have changed up my routine. The roads looked like the plows had done a great job getting them down to the road. In reality, they had removed the snow, but the roads were a solid layer of ice. Up here in this part of MI they seem to use a lot of snow pushers rather than plows, which has a side effect of not much salt getting put on the roads. I ended up crashing my car into another that was stopped to turn because I couldn’t stop on the solid ice (which up until I went to hit the brakes, I was unaware that it was solid ice).

After the wreck I fell [… click to continue reading this post]

Halloween power outage – A lesson in two is one and one is none

So last night, Halloween, we had a power outage for quite a while. I have posted about light and heat in the past. This was really our first long power outage in a while. 60 mile an hour wind gusts took their toll. 60 mph winds aren’t unusual around here, but these were swirling and changing directions, which IS more unusual around here. Around 11am a neighbor said they heard a big boom. As you may know, my house is in one state and I am in another for work. I was planning on coming home to trick-or-treat with the family, so I figured it was no big deal when my wife called at 1pm and said the power had been out a couple hours. I’d be home in a couple more hours and could take care of what may need taking care of. Also, power is rarely out for long in the area, so I also thought it would be back up any time. Below are some lessons and a bit of play-by-play.

I get home at 5:15 for trick-or-treat at 5:30. My sister-in-law had come to visit because my wife’s grandparents had come to pass out candy and [… click to continue reading this post]

The Downside of Prepping (and learnings from moving)

I’ll preface this with saying that not every detail I say below is solely related to prepping.

So, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I have started a new job in the last several weeks and I am living in an apartment in Michigan. As of today my house is finally on the market, about 5-6 weeks after I started my job (and a couple more since I quit the last job). So YAY! to the old house being on the market so I can really start looking for a new place. Not that October in Michigan (or anywhere except maybe the deep south) is really prime time to be looking for a house or moving. I will say moving in January in Michigan MUST be worse than moving in January in southern Florida, though I haven’t experienced either.

So, in the last 6 weeks or so I have moved a considerable amount of my house to my apartment, one car-load at a time. I have learned (and already knew of course) that a ford focus is not the ideal house-hold moving vehicle. Yet, each weekend I would go home and bring back a new load of stuff. I [… click to continue reading this post]

Refilling 1lb propane tanks – video

Recently amongst the various forums I browse I have seen several mentions of refilling 1lb propane tanks, so I thought I’d get in on the action. I have had hoses to convert between the tank types, but I hadn’t actually pickuped up a refill adapter. I picked up this Mr. Heater for around $14 on amazon, at least $5 cheaper than the hardware store had it for.

The video is of my first attempt. Now, even before my first try, I was confident that I would be successful, mostly due to the various hints I had read in some posts on various forums. I am quite familiar with PV=nRT, vapor pressures, etc due to my chemistry and chemical engineering degree. You do NOT need such information to be able to fill the tanks if you follow directions. So, here is the video:

So the steps are:

Have a FULL or nearly full grill tank available Fully empty the disposable tank (the mistake I made) at room temperature or warmer until there is NO pressure left. Freeze your tank for an hour or so. Make sure your grill/big tank is room temp or warmer Weigh the small tank, [… click to continue reading this post]

That was quite the commute

Highs in the negatives, 12″+ of snow, and a snow day from work yesterday. The states of emergencies were lifted this morning so I thought I’d go to work. I got stuck at the 2nd stop sign I encountered, couldn’t make it up the slight hill. Rolled back a bit to get a running start, but the guy behind me though I was going forward so he was planning on stopping where I was, not behind me. He had good reactions though, went into the snow missing me by inches. A few people behind him slammed on breaks, one guy went into snow bank. I got a running start and made it past the stop sign. Turned around, then helped snowbank guy push out. Took 20 minutes because of the SOLID sheet of ice under the snow, coupled with rear wheel drive pickup that had its frame dragging snow. Dug him out with the snow shovel that I carry. Finally got back home (all of this took place 1/2 mile from home). Gonna work from home today. NOT worth going out.

In my car kit I do not have salt or kitty litter. I didnt have any and the kit [… click to continue reading this post]

What are you overlooking?

During my morning commute I have taken to listening in on a Zello channel (a walkie-talkie type app). This morning there was a discussion about weather and storms, and one of the guys mentioned when there was an ice storm there was no chainsaw bar oil to be found in the town. That got me to thinking that a lot of people probably thought they were pretty prepared because they have a chain saw. But, if you have a few trees down and you don’t have 2 cycle oil, or you don’t have bar & chain oil, what do you have? Something that wont last for too long, thats for sure. What else might we be over-looking in our day-to-day lives, in our preparations, in our plans? Have you considered ALL of the potential outcomes? I sure haven’t. I’m going to do an excercise in a sec on a topic I haven’t even yet picked as I write this sentance, then I will think of potential outcomes that may not normally be considered.

Heck, lets just stick with ice storm. That leads me to power outage as that is pretty common, especially in this area since the power lines are [… click to continue reading this post]

More thoughts on winter car survival

So there was recently an article about a family of five that survived 2 days stranded in their car in the snow. Now, they were purposely going out to “play” in the snow when their car rolled into a ravine. Since they intended on going out in the country to play in the snow they were better prepared than most people, probably even considerably better than my winter car kit video. So, they had some winter clothes, a bit of food, and a few other things. They also did several creative things to survive / stay warm. They heated up rocks in a fire outside the vehicle, then put the rocks in the spare tire to keep them from setting things on fire / burning people.

This also relates to my post on the mentality of success or failure . They had a survivor’s mentality, THE most important thing you can have. That, coupled with a problem solving attitude and you can do incredible things. Instead of “I can’t”, approach life with “If I want to, how CAN I?”.

That brings me to a few more ideas for things that can be done:

Hand/body warmers: These things are amazing. I [… click to continue reading this post]

Winter car kit contents – video

As usual, click on the post link to see the embedded video

I put this car kit together to get me by in case I get stranded in the snow on my 60 mile commute. This is not meant to be a traditional GHB, it is meant to keep me alive until AAA can get to me, or to double in case I get snowed in at work and spend the night there. It would be unlikely to be too bad at work, but where I live we can get pretty significant amounts of lake effect snow. Already in my car but not shown: Phone charger High power flashlight with strobe mode Heavy duty collapsible shovel Items in this kit that may be of particular interest:

Yak – Trax I have the heavier duty version I got for Christmas a couple years ago, but these have started to become knocked off some so you can find off-brands for as low as $5-10. They are amazing for walking on a solid sheet of ice. The above link is to the sharper, but slightly less heavy duty version from what I have, but still the name brang. I have seen [… click to continue reading this post]

Winter commute preparing

I am sitting here in a tire (literally) waiting on new tires for my car. They have been slowly leaking air, I have been having vibration issues, and they are somewhat old. There is probably another 5k or 10k miles worth of tread on them, but they are nowhere near what I want them at for a 60 mile each way commute. When trouble shooting the vibration there was a heavy vibration from the tire even when it was off the ground. I could even see visually it was out of round or concentricity by about 1/16”. Time to upgrade a bit early and stop being cheap.

In addition I am putting in a full winter kit this year, changing brake disks (one is warped a few thou and will wear the brakes faster). While I am in there I errol also check the brakes and if over half worn I will change them too. While I do have AAA, I cannot rely on them 100%. Even if I could, isn’t it better to prevent the emergency by performing the routine maintenance now rather than after things have gotten excessively bad? It is a matter of time before the front [… click to continue reading this post]

Having food on hand – a practical prep

I’m sitting here, still stuffed from dinner. Dinner tonight is the same as it was last night because the meal was awesome, and it was plentiful. The meal was made from both long term storage foods and meat from the deep freeze. It was quick, easy, cheap, tasty, and filling. Here is what it consisted of:

2lbs or so ground pork (I bought a case of pork butts and I grind the meat, then put in deep freezer), browned and seasoned heavily with my homemade mexican seasoning (the beans and rice are very plain wi)th no seasoning at all, so the meat needed more than it normally would, you could substitute bulk taco seasoning here)

1 can pinto beans (the ones I made here )


Thats it. Had I used minute rice the total time invested in cooking would have been probably under 10 minutes, though I only do that when I am running short on time, I generally use the bulk rice otherwise. Estimated cost was about $3 for SEVERAL meals worth of food. My wife and I GORGED ourselves on it for two dinners now, and I had it as my lunch today (it is that good, [… click to continue reading this post]

Staying warm during a power outage in the winter

Happy Halloween! Trick or treating has been postponed here until tomorrow due to rain, so I’ll do a blog post instead. The plan is that this weekend I should be doing a video on preparing small engines for winter-time storage.

The last blog post was on general readiness for the lights going out, now lets take into account the need to stay warm. I will touch on a few options, though likely only go into depth with things I have a first hand account of.

First, a few truths about heat. There are three types: Convection, conduction, and radiation. I don’t mean the type that will make you look like the hulk. Convection is heating the air which will heat you, conduction is directly touching a hot object, and radiation is the heat that gets to you from a distance without heating the air; think laying in the sun on a fall day that is 70 degrees with no wind. While 70 isn’t terribly hot, it can get pretty warm in the sun if there is no wind. Or, think sitting in the window sill while the sun is shining directly at you. That is radiation. Radiation is the same [… click to continue reading this post]

Preparing for a lights out event*

*Not like David Crawford’s great book.

I’m not sure about most of the country, but in the northern midwest the fall brings some pretty strong winds for more of the time. Where I am at 50+ mile an hour wind gusts happen during a lot of the year, it just seems to happen more during the fall/ early winter. Of course, up here all the power lines are above ground too, even though my current area is dense enough of a population that underground would make more sense. I have been very fortunate so far though that I haven’t lost power for more than 6-8 hours EVER, and those times were not in the coldest part of the year. Since power outages don’t always happen in the dead of winter, this post will be a little more geared to lighting and passing the time. Another post soon will deal more with the heat / staying warm side of things.

Fortunately for me, I am a bit of a flash-o-holic. No, not a pervert, but one who really likes flashlights . I have since high school where I started by modifying PR based bulbs to use LED’s that would put out [… click to continue reading this post]