Winter weather in north Texas, Amazon Handmade listings process
The storm was pretty substantial, but not nearly on the level of February 2021.
The cold was pretty impactful. I saw a number of vehicles fishtail and slide on the small hill in front of the property.Some melting occurred today, but there will be a fair amount of re-freezing tonight, with thawing and re-freezing cycles over the next couple days.
My grocery order arrived. I am not in the delivery area, but the delivery driver is willing to add me as a favor (and for a handsome tip). I may continue getting my groceries this way even after I get my truck back.
Speaking of my truck, I don’t really expect to get it this week. I don’t expect that the mechanics will be working until road conditions improve, as well as the likelihood of the work area being far too difficult to heat when it’s in the teens.
Starting to collect what I need to put together the Amazon Handmade listings, and to ship them to Amazon to take advantage of Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)
My new printer arrived and is unboxed and set up. Some of my labeling supplies arrived, with the winter weather delaying one of the key items – the 30-up sheets of labels for sku / barcode labeling. This isn’t a huge impediment. I’ll be able to create the print file and make sure I have the individual packages staged in order for when I can print and stick. I have my packaging bags handy, and can set up for photos.
Remove background in Photoshop to leave pure white background for main image. Watch tutorial on creating Amazon listings Learn how to submit items for FBA
create business cards / general labels
lay out photography and packaging line
package items, making sure to keep things in the same order as photos
There are any number of things I can do in bad weather. I’ve decided to pick out a few.
IMy Amazon Handmade account is recovered, so I need to start the whole listing and packaging process. It’s fairly persnickety, so coffee will need to be in hand.
The Amazon photo guidelines are pretty specific. This will require me to create a white photo box to get good light and white background high resolution images. Once I have the photos , I need to write good descriptions of all the items, Package them, get bar codes assigned, and get them ready to send to Amazon.
I do have one stop point – that is the current lack of a printer. I have a printer on order, but it may not arrive until Friday. Still; I can have the file ready to print all the labels.
Part of this will be making more “Round TUITs” wood burned rounds. A package of larger – 4 inch – rounds arrived today, so it will take me some time to work my way through them.
Some of these rounds will become fiber tools – drop spindles, to be precise.
The wood burning reminds me of tooled leather, and I enjoy using those kinds of designs in wood burning. The above discs need some more refinement, and some stain. Still, I’m fairly satisfied with the start;
Approximately 5 pounds of fine flax for spinning linen thread was added to my fiber stash recently. I have my spinning wheel set up for spinning this. I will be able to settle in for marathon spinning.
This image doesn’t look like much, but it will be a pair of hand spun scrappy wool socks. Knit of various bits and pieces of sample wools, it is unremittingly colorful and cheerful. I suspect that they will stay in my wardrobe, rather than being offered for sale.
I think these plans will keep me occupied when I’m not working from home this week.
The weather later this week is going to be potentially hazardous. While it won’t have the far-reaching effects of last year’s freeze, it does need to be prepared for.
Forecast low temperatures are not projected to get to single digits, and the total time below freezing is expected to be only two days, and not over a week. It does appear that this will be more of a sleet / freezing rain / ice event than snow and cold.
Most people in Texas are woefully unprepared to drive in such conditions, so not being on the road is a far better plan.
ERCOT interim CEO Brad Jones has been quoted as saying that the power grid will not go down this time. He says that the last twelve months have brought considerable improvement in preparedness.
Propane suppliers have not matched the winterization progress, so that is something of a concern.
I was just talking to my work supervisor, and we discussed at what point our field techs would be sent home.
Since I work from my Homestead Office, I have no plans to be on the road at all. My main challenge will be in keeping the Office warm enough to work.
Rahn will be getting water moved, and get some more bottles filled. The stock tank heater will be put into one of the storage barrels.
I did get a grocery order put in and the driver will be able to pick it up and get it to me before the weather rolls in.
Next post will cover some of my plans for while the weather is yucky.
A few years ago, I tried a project to make a blog post every day for a full year. I didn’t make it then, but I am revisiting the idea. This will be a Blog or Vlog post every day.
Here is a list of some of the things I’ll be covering. I am hoping that listing things will allow me to calm the ideas bumbling around in my mind. It’s as if I have a herd of sugar-crazed toddlers and caffeinated kid goats constantly screaming at me to do such-and-so.
I will be covering all the categories on Art-Earnative Life Farm, the Homestead, Art and Music, Cooking and Food Storage, Fiber and Fabric, and Recovering Health and Fitness. The 365 Blog or Vlog will be it’s own category for convenience, but the daily posts will also fit into the other categories.
Under the Homestead category, first up is recovering my Amazon Handmade seller account. This is proving to be a long process. I’ve sent in the documentation requested, but haven’t gotten a definitive answer.
I need to recover the account, as Amazon rules do not allow more than one seller account. I could get permanently banned from the platform if I violate this rule.
Once the account is recovered, I need to start listing products. I have dozens of things already made. The listing process involves writing descriptions, getting barcodes assigned, taking good pictures that meet Amazon guidelines, packaging, and as I’ve decided to use Fulfillment by Amazon, creating the shipment to Amazon FBA.
Once Amazon has all the items and they are live, I need to be doing a LOT of promotion. While FBA items are automatically higher in Amazon Search Results, there are many, many, many Amazon Handmade sellers.
While I’m doing all this I need to be creating much more product! Wood burned art, bead work, knitted items, other media artwork, and far, far more. I need to do weaving projects of hand spun yarn, sewing projects, carvings, small spinning and weaving tools, even some glass work.
Concurrently, I need to be getting my Homestead Office put together to handle all this. Some things will need to be moved from my bedroom to the office, others will need to be re-arranged in my bedroom.
Much more work needs to be done on the inside of the Homestead Office. Rahn is working on the wiring and insulation, the pallet wood paneling, and getting things stored in the lofts.
Art-Earnative Life Farm has quite a few urgent projects. One is filling empty feed bags with soil and compost for this year’s gardening. I have all the seed I need to grow most of the vegetables we need to eat for the year.
I’m also going to be growing much more of the food for the rabbits and chickens. The feed bill for them has gotten over $100 a month, so we need to both cut back on the number of rabbits by sending some to freezer camp and feed the remainder from the Homestead.
Processing rabbits for the freezer will also allow us to feed the feline horde more home-grown feed. Eleven cats go through a fair bit of feed themselves. The last two females will get spayed this month, and then the males will get neutered a couple at a time. They do a great job of keeping the rodent population under control and are purring puddle piles of love.
The new chicken coop is nearly done, and there are plans to expand the rabbit housing to make feeding and management more efficient
In my Lessons From a Dangerous Situation post, I detailed how we had failed in a number of areas. Some of those are fixed, others need more work. As we get to these, I’ll be including them in my posts.
Back to the Homestead category; we do have the wood stove installed and working. This will cover keeping heat in the house as well as an alternative cooking surface. Rahn has several days of wood cut dried and stacked, but he needs to get new chains for the chain saws. We also have a power splitter.
Our kitchen stove is finally installed and working. The tankless water heater needs to get installed and the plumbing updated. A new pressure switch pump needs to get purchased.
We did obtain a stock tank heater to keep at least one of the water barrels thawed.
Plans on the off-grid backup power system are moving forward. I have two 2 kilowatt inverters on layaway. I’ll be bringing our generators to the small engine repair shop in Sherman as soon as possible.
We’ve been waiting for weeks for my truck to get repaired. The transmission went out. Once it gets back, we’ll need to do chores that include getting water bottles filled, laundry, animal feed run, grocery shopping, and lumber shopping. I hope Rahn has the new trailer put together, as this will make doing all of the above so much easier.
Under the Cooking and Food Storage category, I plan to start doing at least one Vlog post a week of “What’s for Dinner?” Basic cooking that will include easy homemade bread, dinners with great taste and appropriate portions, basic ingredients, and less money.
I’ll also be covering using our chest freezer for easy freezer meals, freezer storage and organization, dehydration, storing bulk foods, canning, pickling, fermentation other than pickling. The idea here is to give options to the frustrations of the grocery store empty shelves, and the absurd spiraling cost.
This feeds (see what I did there?) into Recovering Health and Fitness. The recipes put forward on the YouTube cooking shows call for absurd amounts of high fat, high calorie ingredients. While I’ll admit that cutting back those recipes wouldn’t be nearly as photogenic, some sanity needs to be applied. What I’ll share will use far more garden produce, and far less “convenience” foods.
Rahn plans to start video bass guitar and guitar lessons under the music side of the Art and Music category, I’ll be doing Vlog posts using a wood burning tool, upcycling used bottles, painting, and using a glass ink pen.
Under Fiber and Fabric, I’ll be doing spinning Vlog posts discussing linen spinning, home made drop spindles, and small sewing projects. I not only have quite a bit of yardage that I inherited from a friend’s estate, I have quite a bit of fabric in the form of clothes that are the wrong size or we just don’t wear anymore.
I’ve been watching quite a few videos of “history-bounding” wardrobe items. I need to put together at least one appropriate outfit for our local Doc Holliday festival. I’ve promised a friend that I will bring my spinning wheel to spin in front of her shop. I know from experience that a spinning wheel will make people stop and look.
With all this, production is assured. Now I need to get back to wood burning.
Saying to oneself that if I did this, that, and this other project, my homestead will be “Done” is silly.
Not even a rock is static. It is formed by volcanic forces, or laid down in sediment, or crystallized. It gets eroded, cracked, pulverized, or sculpted by wind and rain. If a rock changes over time, why would anyone expect a home not to?
We all have goals. The “When I grow up, I want to be a ……” is natural, needful, and sometimes happens. Goals also change.
My childhood goal of being an artist has led me in directions I never forsaw. Now I and Rahn are creating an artwork over a canvas nearly an acre in size.
We have goals, and Rahn sometimes complains that “everything I do is temporary”. While this is true on one level, in the bigger picture the current projects are improving the conditions for the next level.
.WISH LIST – PROJECTS
Here are projects that need to get done:
Rahn’s project list Once these first fifteen get moved to completed, order of next projects will be updated. 1. Chicken tractor DONE! 2. Remove dead trees and buck them up 3. Install barnyard fence with gate – Expand Barnyard 4. Install new stove / wiring / breaker / 220 plug 5. Replace kitchen sink and disposal 6. Rebuild back porch (expanded) and stairs with railings 7. Build new chicken coop 8. Create Rabbit colony / housing in barnyard 9. Front porch with stairs 10. House skirting 11. Office wiring / lights 12. Office insulation 13. Office flooring 14. Office paneling 15. Office porch w/ awning
Raised beds built and filled Pallets broken down Den cleared Den flooring Den wood stove Den wood hot water Kitchen cabinets repaired Central heat / air unit removed Old water heater removed / replaced with on-demand 2nd fridge / chest freezer to utility room Bathroom gut / floor repaired Washer / dryer in place of central heat & air Shower in place of tub Plumbing repair / replace Water stanchion expansion / freeze – proofing Water filtration both continuous and drinking water Water collection gutters / piping Blow-in insulation in ceiling Exterior siding repair / replace / insulation Exterior paint Repair lawnmower(s) & mow Build hardscape / landscaping Repair generator / build generator
Sew new tobacco pouch for Rahn with camouflage fabric Excess kitchen stuff cleared Studio stuff from kitchen to Office Can goods to cabinets Utility room shelves cleared Utility room shelves to Homestead office Wool wash set up / wash wool Design solar backup system Make Dragon Duster for Rahn Sew new clothes for myself Organize stash / donate what I can’t use List items on Amazon Handmade Create signs for Homestead store Design flyers for Homestead store Amazon affiliate links More production of for sale items Food processing Kitchen organize Set up kombucha brew station in Office Design labels for kombucha / eggs Design & print flyers for rabbit sales / kitten re-homing Work on website / YT edits Plants started
Set up Office – Completed
Dish washing station – Completed
WISH LIST – TO BE PURCHASED
Quick charger for phone Printable stick-on CD labels Printable business card size labels Vodka for bottle sanitizing Large sack sugar 2 boxes family size tea bags Video Camera PURCHASED Lapel mic 250′ 12/2 wire 70′ 2″ PVC conduit Fittings for same Outlet boxes Outlets – both interior and exterior light switch Pex and connectors 3/4″ PVC sched 40 & fittings Water filter for continuous filtering Low micron water filter for drinking water Water pump with pressure switch Copper pipe for wood stove hot water Rain gutters & PVC Exterior siding Insulation for house – wall and blow-in for ceiling Water barrels Exterior paint and stain Shower stall Pressure canner & jars 2nd Fridge or chest freezer Small trailer & trailer hitch insert Sanding discs and belts for bench sander Batteries / inverter / charge controller / wire / solar panels Repair fittings for water hoses & electric extension cords Hardware cloth and bird netting for coops / tractors Float valve for automatic watering system Rock / gravel / topsoil / mulch
In the Lessons From a Dangerous Situation post, I briefly touched on our decision to do more to recover our health and strength. These are the actions we are taking to expand on that decision.
Fitness and strength:
We joined a local gym. $28 a month for the two of us (Rahn as member, me as “buddy”) is a pretty fair deal. We can go to any of the area clubs. Some have different facilities, which we may take advantage of later.
We are also starting to work with a personal trainer. This is a more substantial outlay ($100 for 5 sessions in a month), but we both need work on the basics!
Our free assessment session was both enlightening and somewhat alarming. While the trainer said that I did better than he expected, I was alarmed at how little I could really do. Different perspectives, but it also gives a good baseline for future improvements.
Most of my first session with the trainer was spent on some exercises to both assess and improve balance and foot and ankle strength. Truly impoving fitness from the ground up.
I was also given a couple of exercises to work on the limited range of motion and inflammation in my bad shoulder. These are the same exercises that a physical therapist would have given me, so I feel that the trainer’s fee was amply justified!
I’ll be taking “before” pictures of both of us, but won’t be showing them unit we have some progress photos to post with them. Improving fitness and strength is a process, rather than a destination.
Since I first wrote the above we did complete our first set of sessions with the trainer. I thought we were making progress, but then Rahn re-injured his back, and I caught a cold that put me out of commission for over a week. We need to get back to the gym this week.
The good news is that I have been more able to pick up the slack. I was able to take care of the birds and bunnies on those days that Rahn was was not capable of handling. I’ve also been able to take care of some of the chores that I was slacking on because of bone-deep fatigue.
That fatigue! Google results are pretty vague, but one cause is listed as simply “ageing”, which is simply unacceptable.
My plan to address this fatigue is a combination:
Improve nutrition. Lower consumption of inflammation-causing foods, increase probiotics, increase protiens. In particular, replace coffee with ice water and lemon and eliminate sugar-laden soft drinks. In addition, I need to make sure I have my daily kombucha. I’ll also be starting daily consuption of pineapple. The idea there is to take advantage of the enzyme bromelain. Increasing protien is fairly easy with a slow cooker. A pot of black eye peas and smoked pork is a tasty anytime meal.
Scheduling: This kind of fatigue can easily lead to immobility on an emotional level. Perhaps the best answer is to be able to see progress and production happening. Making a to-do list and daily schedule and then check items off and take photos of things made or done can improve morale.
Increase activity: This is best done on an easy gradient. Do physical chores in short sections. If working in the garden for 15 minutes is too much, work for 10 minutes and take a break. Go back to it later, take another break, etc..
More on Healthier Eating:
My opinion is that we do better at proper eating than many. There is still plenty of room for improvement, and here a few of the actions we are taking.
I skipped getting any pastry and junk food for myself when I shopped. Rahn still wanted some this week, but as he gets more gym time, I think he will be deleting those requests.
I did get some starter yogurt so I can make some slow cooker yogurt for morning smoothies. I also got some frozen unsweetened fruit for those smoothies.
Slow cooker yogurt is super easy to make, saves a bunch of money, and doesn’t require special appliances.
A pint of Greek-style yogurt as a starter, and a gallon of whole milk will make about three quarts of Greek-style yogurt, and a quart of whey to add to soup, bread, or rice. Future batches will need about a pint of the last batch as starter.
I use an oval ceramic-lined slow cooker. It has a capacity of about five quarts.
Method is super easy.
Place a gallon of whole milk in the slow cooker on high for two hours.
After two hours, unplug the slow ccoker. Let it cool for about an hour, then put a pint of room-temperature Greek-style yogurt in a bowl. Add about a cup of the hot milk to the bowl, and stir. This warms the yogurt more slowly than just adding the pint to the milk all at once. Trust me, it makes a difference!
Mix the warmed yogurt and milk back into the warmed milk in the slow cooker. Put the lid back on, and wrap the whole thing in a thick towel.
Now walk away and leave it undisturbed for at least eight hours, or overnight.
When you come back, you should have regular yogurt. You can use it as is, but I like to take one more step to make it Greek-style. I find I like the thicker texture, and slightly more intense flavor.
Place a large strainer over a big bowl. Line the strainer with a clean, damp kitchen towel, and pour the yogurt from the slow cooker into the lined strainer. Cover with a lid, or another towel, and let the watery whey drain into the big bowl. This can take several hours, and the yogurt cultures get a bit stronger and more intense flavor.
There are several approaches to eating healthier, and we’ve decided on a simple version.
Mainly, we are working toward eliminating processed foods, and eating home cooked from scratch foods.
With the garden getting started, the meat rabbits getting numerous enough to start sending some rabbits to “freezer camp”, and getting more chicks and ducklings for eggs and meat, this process has a good start.
The first deep raised bed is built, and will get planted today. Many of the seeds will also get started today. More raised beds need to get built, filled and planted.
Last year’s garden was only in a few pots. While we got some vegetables, it was not nearly enough to feed us all year. I really do plan to vastly increase garden production.
Preserving that produce is also a major target. If I can 100 quart jars of home grown tomatoes, that allsows for tomatoes twice a week all year. If I pickle / dehydrate / freeze 100 pints of home grown peppers, I have spicy foods available for any number of recipes. Other vegetables and herbs also figure in my plans.
How Much To Raise To Eat All Year
I’ve been working out how much to raise to feed us both fresh and preserved foods for the year. From there, I can work out how much square footage of garden needs to be built, and how much animal housing needs to be created.
Another thing to consider is food storage. We’ll need to make sure that most foods won’t require cold storage. I have plenty of experience with canning, drying, and pickling of foods. The Gentleman Friend is a champ at smoking meats.
Part of my research involved old agricultural extension bulletins, and I compiled this list of quantities of foods needed per person over a year. The original resources were based on a family of four, so I worked the figures to reflect amounts per person.
Milk – 75 gallons – 5 ounces of cheese counts as 1 quart
Nuts – 10 lbs – 5 lbs each of peanuts and tree nuts
When I started looking at these numbers, I realized that when broken down to a weekly amount, I was not eating sensibly in far too many categories.
Here are the numbers:
Milk – Initially, we’ll still be purchasing most of our milk and cheese. Our plans do include getting a couple goats.
Eggs – One of the first additions to our new homestead is going to be chickens and ducks for meat and eggs.
Meat / poultry / fish – We’re also going to be raising meat rabbits. I’ve had experience with angora rabbits, and feel confident that meat rabbits would be a nice addition. Ducks in the poultry category. Our new place is very close to Lake Texoma, so the Gentleman Friend is going to be doing a fair amount of fishing to fill the freezer.
Fats – Yes, we are thinking with either getting some “bacon seeds” or finding hunting area that will let us get some wild bacon and lard. Since goat milk needs a separator to get cream for butter, butter will most likely need to be purchased until the equipment budget can support getting a milk separator. Vegetable shortening and vegetable oil will need to be purchased.
Sugars – We like the thought of raising bees. With the numbers of fruits and vegetables to be grown, having pollinators is necessary. I have grown and processed sorghum for molasses before. It’s a fascinating crop with plenty of uses. I will likely grow some sugar beets as a fodder crop for the animals, and I’ll put some time in on experimenting with home-processed sugar. I expect we’ll still be purchasing most of our sugar.
Beans – Broken across several varieties for both eating fresh and drying for storage. 45 plants total. Kentucky Wonder, Pole Lima, Speckled Calico, and Jacob’s Cattle Gold.
Beets – Succession planting for beet greens, baby beets, and beets for storage. 100 plants (or more) Using a beet mixture that has a wide variety of colors, sizes and days to maturity.
Cabbage (and other brassicas) – I like Gonzales Mini Cabbage, but I am also getting a mix packet for other sizes and days to maturity. I will likely have 10 plants. Brussels Sprouts are a treat when roasted with some Italian dressing, or simply garlic with olive oil. I’ve never had a lot of luck with cauliflower, but broccoli has produced for me in the past. Turnip, rutabaga & kohlrabi are also good bets. 10 plants each.
Corn – One of my favorites. There are lots of heirloom seed options for both sweet and flour corn. 5 rows each, separated by a couple weeks to avoid random cultivar crosses.
Cucumber – I have experience with Lemon Cucumber, and the Poona Keera variety has some of the same qualities that I particularly enjoy. Both are never bitter, even if heat-stressed. 6 plants.
Eggplant – I’m growing a variety called Turkish Orange. They resemble orange tomatoes on tall, productive plants. 7 plants
Lettuce – I’m using a mixture of leaf lettuces that will be used in succession plantings. Per medical advice, I should be eating a salad a day, so I’ll be growing at least 70 plants.
Melon & Cantaloupe – I’ll be growing 2 plants in each of 4 varieties for 8 plants total. American Melon, Green Nutmeg, Minnesota Midget, and Hale’s Best. The Gentleman Friend is quite enthusiastic about watermelon, so 1 or 2 plants will probably be added.
Okra – I don’t particularly care for okra, but the Gentleman Friend enjoys it. At least a couple plants will be in the garden.
Onion – I’ll need to get sets locally – 100 sets. I’ll also plant a packet each of chives and bunching onions.
Pea – 70 to 100 plants in succession planting for both fresh eating and drying.
Peanuts – I’ve always wanted to try growing peanuts, and the Gentleman Friend enjoys peanut butter. I think 5 plants per person.
Peppers, HOT – This is Texas. I’m just not interested in bell peppers. 5 plants of Chinese 5 Color, 5 plants of Black Hungarian, and 10 plants from the hot pepper mix packet. Chinese 5 Color & Black Hungarian are both jalapeno-level peppers that have nice color and flavor.
Potatoes – I am planning on having several plants each sweet and white potato plants.
Radish – I really like radishes. A little butter, some sea salt… Radishes are so quick to grow, I’m not even going to put a number on these. I’m using a mix of colors, sizes, & days to maturity.
Spinach – I’m ordering a mixed packet. Again, I’ll be sowing these in succession for fresh eating and freezing. 180 plants overall.
Squash – I’ll be growing 2 plants each of Butternut, Acorn, Yellow summer squash, and Eightball zucchini. Possibly a Hubbard variety for animal feed.
Swiss Chard – I like a variety called Bright Lights. The different colors are interesting, and the ability to harvest repeatedly from the same plant is great. 20 plants total.
Tomato – I expect to end up with at least two dozen tomato plants. Rio Grande is a small paste tomato that tolerates a fair bit of heat. Aunt Ruby’s German Green and Kellogg’s Breakfast are two of my favorites. Both are great producers with fantastic flavor.
Fruits – We plan to add several fruit trees and vine fruits. Mulberry, grapes, blackberry, peach, plum and cherry are my first choices. Strawberries are a must.
Wheat – I haven’t grown grains for home use before, but we’ve decided to put together a fodder growing system for the ducks and rabbits. Adding a 60 x 120 patch to handle some of this may or may not be possible initially. It may be better to find an organic grower that would be willing to trade for our specialties.
Herbs – Cutting celery is my answer to the difficulty of growing celery in this climate. I’ll have a couple plants of it, and will try to keep one plant in a container so as to keep it growing over winter. The other edible herbs I’ll be growing are dill, oat grass, nasturtium, rosemary, cilantro, mint and several varieties of basil.
I’ll also have several varieties of sunflower, Hopi Red Dye Amaranth, Elcampane, Golden Marguerite, Indigo, Henna, Woad, and Black Hollyhock for use as dye plants.
A multiflora petunia mix and some marigolds will add to the appeal of the front yard, and I’ll be growing three varieties of gourds for crafts. Bushel gourd is used to make storage containers, Luffa gourds can be eaten like a summer squash when young, but the main use is as vegetable sponges / scrubbers. Spinner gourds are tiny bottle-shaped gourds that are useful for a number of crafts.
I’ll be having a patch of cotton for fiber use. I have two varieties – Nanking Brown, and Red-Foliated White – that I grew a couple years ago. I have a fair amount of seed, and will see where that gets me.
A number of foods and spices will still need to be purchased or traded for. Black and green tea, coffee, black pepper, salt top the list here. Surprisingly, ginger and turmeric can be grown in pots and are actually quite attractive as houseplants in the winter.
I haven’t yet worked out how much space that will take, so I am going to keep building raised beds until we do figure it out.
These are some of our first targets to get on the road to recovering our health and fitness.
In coming weeks and months, this failures of the grid electric system here in Texas will be gone over in excruciating detail. That is not the purpose of this post.
I want to bring up some plans and upgrades that we will be doing here that you might want to take note of.
Our personal fails touched on all the main needs: Health and physical ability, Food and Water, Shelter and Energy, Clothing.
Health and physical ability: Neither of us had paid much attention to decreasing level of fitness, strength, and recurring injuries. We had allowed ourselves to drop successful nutritional actions – mostly drinking kombucha and taking vitamins. Rahn spent far too much time with back pain and I had let poor sleep decrease my energy level and ability to handle a heavy project load.
Food: I thought I was “adulting” by paying attention to the forecast and getting to the grocery store and feed store two days ahead of the forecasted storm. I got over $200 worth of groceries, $50 worth of feed, and put $20 in the gas tank. I filled water bottles, and made sure I had the recirculating pump in the rain barrels turned on.
As things fell out; the lack of alternate ways to cook meals made the interruption in electric service dangerous. Lack of hot food in cold weather can speed the onset of hypothermia.
A simple recirculating pump was totally inadequate to keep our stored water from freezing. This made keeping our rabbits and chickens safe far more difficult.
Shelter: I didn’t make any particular preparations so far as the house went. I did make sure I knew where my candles were,, and had fresh batteries in the flashlights.
Inadequate insulation in the house, and the inoperable wood stove also added to the danger level.
Clothing: We did not have proper winter clothing, and this could have killed us.
Having examined how we failed to protect ourselves, we need to make sure it never happens again. Increasing our self-responsibilty level requires a number of improvements.
We certainly can’t count on luck!
Health and physical ability: We are back to daily consumption of Rahn’s health TreaT – a specially brewed and upgraded home – produced kombucha – and vitamins. We are also starting multiple visits a week to a local gym, and will be working with a personal trainer at least five times a month. This will require some fairly substantial outlay, but we have negotiated a plan that is doable.
Food: While we plan to vastly increase the amount and variety of food grown at home, I need to put some attention on fast meals with minimum cooking time. The emphasis here will be on canned and dehydrated foods and not on things that require thawing or a microwave oven for heating.
I have a good dehydrator and need to add a pressure canner and jars. A nutrient-dense soup or stew that can be put on the wood stove in a week like we just survived will make a HUGE difference.
While I would like to add a chest freezer, more jars and a pressure canner may be a better option.
Water: Extended hard freezes can be planned for. The best option here may be two-fold. Since the wood stove will see a lot of use during a hard freeze, a copper pipe around the chimney and water line to the water storage is easy and inexpensive. A pex solar hot water panel is another inexpensive option, and can be easily adapted to melt snow and ice for animal water usage.
Shelter: Two things are essential. Improved insulation and a working wood stove. There will be a number of upgrades and additions to the house this year, so more insulation, a radiant floor heating system, and the blocking of the pneumonia holes are part of that.
The parts for the stove have been ordered and will be here soon. Some decisions need to get made regarding the location of a wood-fired hot water using heat from the stove pipe, or a solar water heater using a coil of pex tubing – and preferably both.
We do have two chain saws, and plenty of access to firewood. We have a log splitter on layaway, and expect to be able to get it out in a week or two. One of the chain saws is a small electric model that I can handle easily.
Energy: Installing grid electric was the least expensive option when we first moved the mobile home here. We do still plan to follow our original goal of adding zoned solar power generation
Even the $200 Harbor Freight solar kit would be a step in the right direction. That kit consists of a minimal mounting kit, a charge controller, four 25 watt solar panels, and a blocking diode to prevent night time discharging. It does not come with batteries or an inverter.
While we have already eliminated this kit from our plans, it gives an opening for discussion. There are plenty of videos on YT that deal with how to size a solar power system for various loads.
The basic problem with this system that it is woefully undersized for anything larger than a few 12 volt lights and maybe a phone charger. It can’t run a laptop for more than an hour a day, for example. If you want to power that laptop for five hours per day, you would need at least 600 watts of panels and four deep cycle golf cart batteries.
You would also need a higher amperage charge controller, higher cost wire, more space, more battery connectors, and a battery box to keep children and animals from access. This much amperage can kill.
Here is another option. The 900 watt gas generator from Harbor Freight only costs about $100. It will run for 5 hours on a gallon of gas, though it can charge those four golf cart batteries in only an hour. Since sunny days would not be an issue, you could also use that power day or night, sunny or cloudy rather than having to design in having extra wattage capacity to allow for poor weather.
Having generator backup will allow fewer batteries to carry a load, and let you expand panel arrays. Batteries are much more expensive than panels, and mismatching power capacity and battery age can cause several technical problems.
Clothing: While real cold-weather gear is generally not required in north Texas, having it and not needing it is much better than the reverse. Waterproof barn boots with heavy wool liners, long underwear, a sweater or two for layering, and wool mittens are good things to have in the closet. The waterproof boots would also be useful during spring mud, for instance.
I have a substantial amount of sheep wool in my stash, and plan to process, spin, weave and knit it this year. Hand-knit items, hand-woven blankets, and garment fabric are all on the urgent project list.
We plan to put up a temporary shelter / studio so I can get started on these projects, and we have a sheltered area for outdoor cooking / canning / wood working / general work space.
These actions will allow us to address our failures in preparedness. Freedom should imply that we take our self-responsibility seriously. None of this is to give the impression that we are addressing this with heavy doom and gloom. We take both joy and pride in our ability to be free, productive, and creative.
Over the years I have knitted a number of wristers or fingerless mitts.
They have taken a number of forms.
I’ve used wool, silk, cotton, alpaca, mohair, and blends. Some are hand spun, more have been done with commercial yarns as design experiments.
In the past I have done these as a fingerless glove pattern, just stopping before finishing the fingers and tip of the thumb. These were knitted in the round.
My current experiments have been less structured, as my main idea is to experiment with lace stitch patterns. For example – the pair pictured right is a rectangle and the bottom border was knitted on sideways. The sides were then sewn up just leaving an opening for the thumb.
This design canvas is simple and effective.
The green pair was sold before I even finished seaming the second one.
This pair in red wool will be done soon. This “non-pattern” allows one to simply pick an attractive stitch, cast on and go. Makes for portability and a simple project.
Here are a couple more shots and options
My yarn bowl and knitter’s chatelaine add to my enjoyment of the process. The yarn bowl allows the yarn to stay contained and feed without snarling. The knitter’s chatelaine keeps my stitch markers and counter handy. One can just see my magnet board and pattern line magnifier.
I sometimes use a lighted magnifying lens to make reading the patterns easier for my “mature vision”. It’s a useful tool.