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Preparedness/Survival Skills/BOBs/Kits/Gear If it will help keep you going when TSHTF, talk about it here.

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Old 07-02-2014, 07:15 PM
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Default fire gives free prep test...

We had a house two weeks ago today. It was VERY exciting for us all! Comfy off-grid living to homeless in 20 minutes...

I was home, running our industrial Rigid generator to power air conditioning as it was pretty stuffy in the house. We fight humidity, more so than heat. Since the big power was on, I was also running a counter- top ice maker and adding charge to the bulldog forklift battery that provides our everyday power. Usually we run the generator four hours at a time, a couple days a week in poor solar collection season (now is our poor season for solar, due to our choosing to place the panels on the walls for safety, and not the roof). We run it oftener when its really hot out, to power the air conditioner, usually for a couple hours in the evening.

I had my day planned and fired it all up about 7am. I ALWAYS check the oil, gas and visually inspect everything before startup and the gas tank was not fully topped up. There was plenty for what I had planned. It had been raining off and on so I opened both doors on the shed for ventilation and left the generator in the shed instead of rolling it outside. Our generator has never seen a drop of rain!

All went well until suddenly the generator just STOPPED just before 2pm. I didn't register this at the time, but usually I hear it stutter a bit as fuel runs low and trot out to turn it off before it starves out. I just figured it was about time for it to run out of gas. Since it was already off, I turned off the air conditioner, and unplugged the ice maker. If I don't make it in time I always turn appliances off before turning the key to the "off" position on the generator. This may have been our first miracle - I was not IN the shed with the generator when things really went downhill.

All this is basic safety habit, well ingrained after years of living off the grid. When I unplugged the ice maker I glanced out the window and saw dense black smoke coming form the generator shed. I RAN outside and around the corner and already flames were shooting out of the shed! It was "WOOFING" like a wood stove taking off and getting hotter by the second.

I realized MUCH later that I burnt my hand getting the hose turned on, but I had water on the fire in well under a minute. I was unable to increase the regulator water pressure with my hand, we have incredible water pressure out here and have to regulate it way down to be able to use hoses outside and faucets in the house. I burnt myself again trying but kept the water running! I couldn't get close enough to take the pressure regulator off due to the intense heat so I turned the hose on the end of the house when I realized I wasn't putting the inferno out.

I saw the gas can of course, I'll post pics next. It melted pretty badly but I kept the hose on it between rounds spraying the house. (I'll send a picture in a separate email.) I figured I couldn't run away fast enough to save myself if it caught fire or exploded and took our propane tanks and/or battery with it so my best choice was to keep it VERY wet. The second miracle is that it worked! The gas did not ignite or explode.

Memory is funny. I had my cell phone in my hand though I don't recall grabbing it. I hosed with one hand, hid behind the corner of the house and thumb dialed my neighbor. My third miracle was getting a call through to our neighbors who were actually at home (from the worst possible location for cell signal on the place). They live directly across the road from us, I said "This is Renee, FIRE, call 911 please!" and the call dropped.

They were here in less than a minute. Tammy helped me evacuate our pets, John used to be the fire chief on our local volunteer fire department and he hosed the outside of the house while we gathered critters. Syd loaded right up, rode around under my arm until I got her travel cage out of the loft. She's been a rerun junkie for years and knew just what to do from watching Rescue Hero's, Emergency, Adam 12, etc. Everyone minded Tammy prettily while I went in the house and turned the washer hose on the inside wall, ceiling and flu to the wood / gas cookstove to try and hold the fire back till help arrived.

The fourth miracle was clearly audible by this time - help was on the way!!! The fire department was returning from a nuisance run to Delaney Park, just a couple miles down the hill from us and got our call back at the station, three miles from our home. They were filled, geared up and running, and only minutes from our home. They were here in about 10 minutes I think, we'll check on that but I bet it's close.

I could have cried if I hadn't been so busy, to hear them coming closer every second. Two of our kitties were in the loft area of the house and I KNEW it. I was in with them, the air was fine, the fire wasn't coming through but I'd have been throwing EVERYTHING out of that loft and collecting our kitties if I hadn't heard help drawing ever closer. I KNEW we weren't winning but we were holding it from dreadful spreading - and it would be ok.

The rest of the day remains a blur. I hurt myself badly, throwing dogs bodily out the door and down the hill, and who knows how else. Adrenaline is a very expensive drug and I am STILL paying for it, but I was sure able to do what needed done. All our neighbors arrived to help. Brian got a call from Tammy, she said "Brian your house is on fire and you need to get here now" and the call dropped before she said "And everyone is ok, the fire department is here!" ALWAYS SAY "EVERYONE IS OK" first in this situation, according to Brian. He was home in record time, though Tammy had gotten back to him and let him know all was well.

Our insurance agents from Knapp Miller Brown were here before the fire was out asking what they could do to help and assuring us we were covered, we would be ok, we had PLENTY of coverage, they would see to it we were taken care of. They gave us copies of forms we couldn't understand, patted us and said "Oh There THERE... ''

Our kitties came out after the excitement was over and all was quiet. The dogs are not well socialized but they never barked, or even fussed. They behaved for others like they behave for us - and we've never asked them to mind anyone but us... Syd sat with Tammy and kept the other critters centered, she is their focus in the house, they all really love her.

Within two hours of all clear, we had set up in the Eddy's ice-cream semi-truck box that a friend and her then 5-year-old boy Jon had lived in for some time until they got on their feet. We had just started setting it up for a woodworking shop area out here and had to move some stuff out but we are quite comfy now and will be more so very soon.

The insurance adjuster was out the following day and pressed a check for $2,500 "For IMMEDIATE need, let me know when you need more, and we'll get you set up on a monthly living allowance. Log lost hours from work so we can pay you for those and keep ALL your receipts!" Chad was just super with us, we were still pretty much in shock and he managed to be a comfort to us and guide us through what needed to be done. We'll be sending a very nice letter to his boss!

The "Point of origin inspector" (forensic investigator) arrived the day after. He was just great with us too, we're still reeling from the shock of it all now, a week after and we were getting lost in our own yard for several days after. (It is interesting to see how cognitive function declines in high stress situations, even if it's happening to us We were fascinated and really enjoyed learning about his job. He asked lots of questions, took loads of pictures and then quarantined the whole area affected by the fire - including our bulldog battery and solar panels which were not plugged up to the battery!!!

He explained that the insurance company (Indiana Farmer's, can't say enough good things about them!) would send a letter to Rigid, the generator manufacturer stating intent to investigate their product. Rigid has two weeks to respond to this letter and then a collaboration will be scheduled. The insurance investigator and a representative from Rigid will come collect the generator, it will be autopsied and everyone wants to see EVERYTHING, just like it was after the fire. 6 weeks was his most optimistic estimate, and he said it could take months. We can't begin work on our structure until that is cleared - or even use our household power. This represents a MAJOR inconvenience to us but if it saves others a similar situation we're just fine with it!

Our generator was less than 3 years old, had just over 600 hours on it and had gotten all the routine scheduled maintenance. We take better care of our equipment than most vehicles get, we rely on it and tend it religiously! The Rigid generator we use is intended for contractor use and the mileage we put on it is NOTHING compared to the daily grind most of these units get on job sites. It would have more hours running in 8 months doing the job it was made for! Brian always shops for far higher rated equipment than we actually need for our home power system. He's my guru for all things electric and off-grid and I really appreciate all the effort and planning he's put into this!

We're both safety freaks but we learned a lot from all this. Our 200 foot, 1" diameter fire hose was the first thing that burned, and we hadn't thought to hook it up on a "Y" fitting to unregulated pressure. It might have helped if the hose spewed full pressure water on the area when it melted. We'll be doing that before the area is even released! (our frost free water hydrant is in the quarantined area.)
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Old 07-02-2014, 07:17 PM
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We were working on a pretty big leap in improving our lifestyle. We have a 500 gallon propane tank ready to move in some distance from the house but have been using two, 100lb tanks with a changeover valve for our modest propane needs and the generator was MUCH too close to these tanks for comfort! We'll NEVER leave a gas can anyplace near running equipment again!!! I had no idea that we could do everything right for generator safety and it could STILL blow up into an inferno in less than a minute!

We lost a lot of stuff that was outside, around the shed due to the intense heat generated by the fire. There couldn't have been much gas left in the tank either. We never store flammable fuels in the shed. Our charcoal lighter fluid is even kept outside! We had stored our cleaned kerosene lamp collection in the shed but we'd run them pretty well dry before stowing them away. Our new generator will be in it's very own shed, far, far away from everything! It might get it's own sprinkler fire extinguisher system too, we do live in the middle of the woods...

We thought about renting an RV to stay in during the months of cleaning and repair to come. Fortunately there wasn't a single unit available from Tennessee to Ohio, Kentucky to Illinois. We were left with our little ice cream truck box which will be far safer and was already in-work with things that will be useful to us. The completely open floor plan is useful with our HUGE bird cage for Syd and crates for all the dogs. The dogs are miserable without their crates to nap in... We had already fenced a yard for Jon and with a little underpinning are able to let our confused dogs out into a safe, secured area since we can't use the electronic perimeter system they are trained to use on our now limited power allowance. (Rambo, Jake and Bear just now sneaked in past a chair I had blocking the entry door to the fenced area and dove in their crates for a snooze

We already had solar panels my folks had given us for Christmas that we'd planned to put on the container to provide lights and such for our shop. We had the sink and stove already in place as we planned to keep these in the shop area for convenience. We're close to the house so we can shelter from severe storms if we need to, the critters are begging to get back in and won't be a problem to herd there if we need to. We've always talked to our critters and "Let's go in the house!" is always greeted with enthusiastic compliance.

We have running water, our on-demand hot water heater that ignites using a D-cell battery, toilet and shower in the house that we're using, a big blessing! We're just a stone-throw from the house. This will be a huge help as we begin work, we won't have to commute here from a rented place and lose all the time on the road.

We can get to our STUFF. Most of it wasn't damaged. The paper did run an article naming Brian and the road we live on so opportunistic thieves are a concern so we're thankful to be here to guard our stuff! I saw a LOT of unfamiliar traffic the first few days after the article ran, (we live on a dead-end road and pay attention to vehicles so we know who belongs here). I've been making myself visible and taking the big dog with me so the less-honest folks won't be tempted

The dogs still wake up confused and don't know where they are. Syd has some night frights. Two of our cats have not accepted the change of address and haunt the doorstep to the house begging to go in. It REEKS in there and even after the melted Styrofoam smell dissipates we already have mold and mildew starting from the water, we don't linger in there and don't want sick critters.

We can run a hose from the water heater and shower outside if it gets bad, the old outhouse is still in place, we could put a porta-potty over the septic system or use our RV toilet if it gets bad enough we need respirators to work in the house. It's summer, thank the Good Lord, we do that even more often than usual lately, and with deep gratitude. We have power, water, electricity and cooking facilities, an brand-new home phone and even internet at this point. I've rednecked up some shaded area to reduce the time we need to run the generator Dad loaned us. It's lots more efficient and far quieter than our small backup generator, we sure appreciate all the help and comforts provided by family and friends!!! People have been bringing small quantities of prepared cold food, ice, bottled water and much, much more. Friends and family have been doing running for us. We feel profoundly blessed and pray for those who lose everything in fires.

I'll post pics next.
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Old 07-02-2014, 07:29 PM
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Doesn't look bad from a distance.

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The gas jug (last pic) was sitting at the base of the wrought iron angel hubby Brian made for me.

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The 1" fire hose burned first... BIG lesson learned!
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House is made with styrofoam core, laminated panels, walls are 6" thick, roof is 8". Doesn't burn fast, bet you can guess how I know that...
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Images aren't coming up, time to ask for help! I clicked the image button, copied the image from 'get links' at photobucket and pasted them in. Works fine but pics not loading... I'll try again when I find out how to fix. Copying the the adventure from another forum, thought our trials might help others here learn how to not be homeless after a home fire - we were set up in a couple hours thanks to preps.

Last edited by rj5156; 07-02-2014 at 07:34 PM.
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Old 07-02-2014, 07:37 PM
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ahh, it was a settings issue, fixed.

The siding burned fairly briskly, even with the hose running on it.
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The gas can that did NOT burn or explode, we kept it very wet!!!
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The fire didn't quite make it through. The fire dept asked if they might check inside since their heat sensors showed potential fire. We said OH YES!!! All the stink came in, and of course I and the fire department hosed the whole thing so it's starting to mold, not living in that!
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Old 07-02-2014, 07:47 PM
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Working on our new home. Solar panels are up and providing electricity today!

The dark colored pop-up is our temporary generator shed...
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My redneck shade garden. It's HOT and any shade is good shade right now. We'll upgrade this with real shade netting and a tarp awning over the area the pop-up is in as soon as all the materials arrive. Meantime recycled stuff that didn't burn on the gazebo is shading lots of area.

The small solar panel charges a battery for the RV water pump drawing water from a barrel and feeding our sink. Gotta keep clean! The hose won't hold pressure but it will run water downhill and get most of it in the barrel...
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Secure accommodations for the dogs. The Dean Foods semi truck box is also insulated and leak free, we've got plans for our kitchen in that in the near future.
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Cooler = fridge until new generator arrives. We'll put it in a small freezer, set a cooler surrounded by gel cold-packs in it and run the freezer evenings to freeze the cold-packs, with the lid ON the cooler. Then we'll take the lid off the cooler and see if anything froze in the cooling cycle, and close the freezer. If so, we'll set the frozen item out in a small cooler next cycle. Bet it works fine.

I think it will hold for quite some time, off-grid refrigeration is a pain but we were doing great with a 1.7 cubic foot fridge (that's tiny folks!) on our home system. Can't BEGIN to support that on a single deep cycle 12 volt battery. Gotta make do. We'll let you know how it works out for us. Brian's idea on the freezer, simple, inexpensive, elegant and durable - he does that well and I appreciate him for it!

Our cobbled together sink is buried under drying towels, daily rain has added further excitement to our adventure. The black barrel has a tap and is full of water too, we use it for hand washing in the yard during summer months.
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Old 07-02-2014, 07:53 PM
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Got the bare necessities all arranged, leveled and organized. Better view of the sink, still buried in wet towels tho.
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My internet works anyplace in walmart's coverage area! It's fast enough for me at 56K/second. We are able to make phone calls with the straight talk equipment and a cell booster and have already ordered a lot of our construction supplies online from our yard.

I'm using the battery for the RV water pump here. It runs my stuff just fine with power left over from that bitty solar panel. We are using 12amps for our basic household electricity at present. That's minuscule, but we're getting our stuff done just fine. We do need a generator to run our air conditioning but Brian picked up the latest, most efficient model and it runs quite economically.
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Our humble abode. It's pretty full with critters but we have the adjoining milk truck semi box full of tools we aren't using right now that will soon be our kitchen. We'll move the stove, freezer and maybe the sink into the back half of it and have plenty of room for that RV toilet with a curtain if we feel we need it.
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I'll add to this as I can, gotta have sunshine to get electricity or run the generator right now. Holding out for sunshine, doesn't make sense to run a generator for internet...
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Old 07-02-2014, 09:39 PM
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I am so sorry! I'm glad you're okay. OMG! What a nightmare.
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Old 07-02-2014, 10:09 PM
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Wow what a scare.....but this says tons about being prepared. Most people are completely out of luck, but you have the means to survive what ever comes and stay on your property. Shows everyone what it means to be prepared....it helps major in anything that happens. Thank goodness your fur babies and you are safe and sound. So sorry for your lost in the fire....hard to handle things like that.
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Old 07-04-2014, 06:14 PM
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CatherineID fire has always been my biggest fear... My neighbor lit TWELVE brush piles last year during a burn-ban, on a day with 35mph winds gusting UP from there. Of course the wind was blowing right toward our home... 1" fire hose, neighbors with rakes and shovels, and a speedy arrival by the local volunteer fire dept saved our butts then, and again this round. Interesting when I'm in it I don't have time to be scared.

HawaiiDi I was and am SO thankful our our critters are ok. Worried about the cockatoo, they're very sensitive to airborne stuff, cleaners, new carpet and smoke of course but she's fine thank God!

We've figured out that a fire is a life-altering event. We see that the stress has impacted all areas of our lives. We're talking it through and taking good care of ourselves but daily living is a real chore even at this point. We don't understand folks who mourn lost THINGS after a disaster. We decided long ago what matters to us, and what happiness means to us. We have everything that matters, and even if our house had burned to the ground we would still feel that way so long as we have our critters and each other.

I finally saw our "shed toad" yesterday. I had been so worried about the critters that lived under our toasted shed! (Toads can live 36 years, are remarkably hip and eat tons of bugs, we water them and provide habitat to encourage them in our outside living areas. Toad hassling is strictly forbidden, we enforce rules for our cats and dogs with a spray bottle, or the hose as needed. We pet and handle the toads too

Happiness to us is something to look forward to - and someone to share it with! We've still got everything we care about and we are happy! Our stress load is dropping, we could SMELL the stress on our critters and ourselves and it's getting better every day. Routine and habit get us through the day. Getting small things like our trash cans and toothbrushes a new home that we're accustomed to is HUGE in recovery from disaster.

The value and attitude choices we already have made directly impact how we deal with emergencies and how we recover from them. We decided to respect the stress but to view it as funny! We've chosen to feel pleased that we will have the opportunity to deep-clean and re-paint the interior of our home - and get paid for it! We are thrilled to HAVE stuff to clean up and happy that we'll end up better organized than we've ever been Mindset matters and the only thing truly in our control is what we THINK.

We had both considered long ago how we felt about priorities in crisis. Brian saw a show as a child that illustrated tough choices about survival. Would you give up a limb to ENSURE your survival? We would. How about pets, would you let your home burn to save them? We certainly would! At what point would you defend your life from attack? Have you really thought about what it would take for you to feel justified doing violence or killing another human being? Are you willing to do that?

There is a defined point for me where I'll do whatever is necessary and I've taken training to feel secure in my abilities to do that. Is getting away "enough" for you? It isn't for me. Attackers are just liable to come back and try again. Try to kill me and you'll have to do it to save your life! What would you do if your power went out for several weeks as it did for many folks after hurricane Ike passed through? Do you have a way to cook? A way to stay warm? Can you have lights, safe drinking water, basic sanitation?

A couple small solar panels and deep cycle batteries can carry you through in far more comfort than you might think, some light and a small fan sure beat none! An inexpensive propane heater and a couple 20lb propane tanks might keep you from having to live in a shelter - if you could even get to one. A propane lantern lasts a loong time turned down low. Light is comfort, not just convenience. Are you comfortable in complete darkness? Can your important relationships survive the stress that comes with disaster? How might you cope separately and together? What are your mental health needs during extreme stress?

Would you give up your wallet, your purse, your car to try to avoid violence? I probably would not. Depend on the situation. It's fairly likely that violence
will only follow capitulation and I've had all the violence done to me that I ever mean to take. Do you have a plan if a carjacking attempt should be made? I keep a very sharp hatchet in easy reach in my vehicle. I can roll a window up and handicap a potential shooter such that they might shoot out a window but I can get their hand AND the gun if I can't just drive off with it.

Would you defend your home? What situations would you be better off leaving and calling for help? (We have a serious gate across our driveway so if anyone comes here with ill-intent I can lock them IN so they can't get away before I'm done with them and the cops can get here!) Where is the line in your sand? If you can define it you will fare far better in a crisis!!!

The main thing is to stay as calm as possible in crisis and it's a lot easier to do if you've considered tough choices before you have to make them. I did not have to make tough choices when I saw the fire. I was able instead to evaluate and initiate whatever delays in damage were possible. I knew EXACTLY when I would choose to abandon those efforts and evacuate myself and my pets, and how long it would take me to accomplish this. "Fight or Flight" states are not conducive to clear, long- range thinking. My personal willingness to defend the stuff I've worked very hard for is tempered by a risk-assessment and order of operations that I had the ability to work out because I didn't have to make the big choices.
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Old 07-04-2014, 06:16 PM
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There will be some changes in our lives. Our priorities are short-term right now of course, and we'll address the things we've learned about safety as we recover from the fire. We had been re- evaluating how we spend our time and who we spend it with for a number of years now. This led to our involvement with the Salem Homeschool Academy, the shop classes and our "firing" some "friends" who did not live and believe in ways compatible with what we believe. It will be interesting for us to see how our lives change over time as a result of disaster.

Brian and I have never cared much for the society we live in. Our values are so different from the commercialized, shallow, THING-centered world around us... We think our species are parasites on the face of our planet - and we ARE killing our host. The consumer driven economy is so fragile we never felt it could be counted on. Our government, founded as a republic, now a democracy where masses can vote themselves goodies and benefits without considering who will pay for it and how it can even be paid for, has a life-span. We hope not to live long enough to see it fall, but fall it will in time...

The easy energy from fossil energy contributes to the damage we inflict on our planet and there is a finite amount of it available. While we don't care to live like folks did hundreds of years ago we have made many small choices to leave the smallest footprint on our planet that we can, and bring the most good we can contribute to the society we live in. We never were like the other kids, and we test very well on the autistic spectrum - everyone thinks I'm kidding when I say that but it is true. We have always related poorly to social cues from others and found our own company and our pets far less stressful than socializing. We do try and have gotten better with socializing over many years now...

I'm tired of people who don't play nice. The electric company has made it impossible for us to sell any electricity we could make back to them though we could contribute some during peak usage hours and it would seem they would encourage this. The insurance they require to buy our energy is not available and you can be sure they know this! It proved far cheaper for us to provide our own power than to have grid-power installed, and the local electric company really made Brian angry when they came through and set their electric tub right where we plan to build our fence! He made them move it and hacked up hairballs for several years! We may hook up to the grid someday. We are getting older and if the cost comes down to a reasonable amount we might choose easier living. We might not too!

All this means we live a more sustainable life than many folks. It's been a LOT of work, there are no easy answers. We used a propane fridge for years but it required a battery to operate the propane valve so when it died we elected not to replace it. We finally got a very small fridge that uses new technology that doesn't require a compressor (=BIG power hog) but we can't use that with our home battery quarantined. We used gas lights in the winter, when we needed heat anyhow, might as well get light too if we're burning gas for supplemental heat.

We've always used a gas stove, I hate to cook on a sluggish electric stove after years of enjoying immediate temperature control on gas stoves. We found a combination wood/gas cook stove and restored it a couple years ago so we can cook on a wood fire and add heat to our home in winter.

Little things like paying for refrigeration in the winter when it's plenty cold outside really irritate me. It's not the money, it's the principle of wasting energy when there's a world of cold outside the door! We've had a summer kitchen since we moved here. Why pump heat into an area we're paying to cool? I'm fine with running the air conditioning if we need it but it burns me up to heat up the house and have to cool it off! We've had a nice outside setup with a small solar panel on a battery, running an RV water pump from a plastic barrel filled with a hose.

I usually string a heavy duty black garden hose out in the sunshine to have hot running water. It's so hot outside now that we're fine with tepid water for hand and dish-washing. We have an old gas stove we set up in a sheltered, ventilated area in summertime. We have coolers and utensils and a routine for all that. This saved us tremendous stress and energy!
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Old 07-04-2014, 06:20 PM
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A word for the would-be backpack survivalists:

I think bug out bags are great, try to keep one in the car so if disaster hits and I have to hike home I can be as comfy as possible on the way and one at home so if evacuation is required no time lost getting 'ready'. Sheltering in place is so much easier when it's possible!

I lived in tents during warm weather for many years, covered thousands of acres of state forestry wilderness on foot and later on horseback, kept a tent, weather radio, hammock, cooler, squat folding chair, kerosene lamp and pet and canned people food along with fishing supplies in my trunk for years. I've camped out a LOT with minimal supplies from my trunk, cooking over a fire and loved it, taking dogs, cats and the cockatoo along for the fun. Do you have a way to filter water in your bug-out stuff? Got toothbrushes, dental floss, peroxide and inter-dental brushes to prevent gum disease and abscesses? Clove oil to numb and sterilize dental problems you might develop anyway? Dental cleaning tools?

Considered how you'll be able to poop without fiber, providing you can kill meat? Know what plants grow in YOUR area that you can eat? Which plant leaves it's safe to wipe with if you CAN poop? Got any idea what plants you can use for fungal foot-rot when you can't get your feet dry or antibiotics if you get sick? Know where to get saponins for soap when your supply runs out? How to process plants for use? How to get fish with them? Takes unbelievable energy to live like that and in crisis energy is far better spent building resources, not running from them!!!

We COULD take out on foot with what we have already in backpacks and can carry and our pets would troop right along with us. Our cats walk prettily on a leash but we walk them around in the woods so they won't need to. Our dogs come too and the cockatoo can be trusted to ride or fly along in a pinch (don't try this at home with YOUR bird folks, we're 24 years into it with ours and she'd cling to us like a leech before she'd fly off!). They can all be VERY QUIET if we ask and a couple of the dogs will fetch wild rabbits, etc. for us and share!

Why on earth would I want to do all that if I didn't have to? I'd only even consider it if absolute anarchy took place and we were under attack - and only go far enough to defend my STUFF! I know where all the edible plants are here. I know where I can shelter, get water stay cool, be safe from storms, who I can trust and where my network of resource people are. Living or setting up a simple camp in a place that is sustainable for disaster of any type is the only thing that makes sense to me.

I keep a small cage for the cockatoo, clean and ready in a plastic bag on hand for emergencies. I have a larger one she can - and did for several days - live
in comfortably if we lost everything, stored away from the house. I keep an EXTRA large birdcage in case her present home should need work or be damaged. We've had lots of practice with travel, vet trips and local outings for many years so we can handle disasters with a cranky, sensitive, LOUD when unhappy, cockatoo...

We have a large store of dry and canned food, keep filtered water stored on hand and have provisions for making lots more with what we have on hand. We keep emergency surgical supplies, sanitizing agents, and all the basic staple items as well. We have a small solar cooker we built one winter when we were snowed in, that we can use if all else just fails. We have a small wood stove we can set up to cook outside if it gets really bad. We won't go hungry, cold or even uncomfortable in about any foreseeable disaster and have split our storage of this stuff into two locations - in case we might lose
one. We just live like that. It's a lot easier than trying to "prepare".

The hardest thing for us right now is to try to live a "disposable, on-demand" lifestyle! I had to dumpster dive in the recycling bin for a recent recycling class for our shop apprentices. We have never lived a disposable lifestyle. It's the best we can do right now but that will soon improve too.
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Old 07-04-2014, 06:22 PM
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Hubby Brian observes that the layers of backup are the key to being prepared. After 9 years of living off grid and a lifetime of camping we've gotten better at it. Our first attempts aren't failures - they are tucked away for backup. We have a huge collection of kerosene lamps (they were cleaned, emptied and ready to go and burned in the shed but will be replaced) pump-up Coleman stoves and lanterns from the very beginning, outdoor cooking grills in several sizes for different uses (I requested the bitty grill so I can carry it around to shade and Brian made me a real cutie!), we kept the old gas stove when we got the Home Comfort combination wood and gas cook stove refurbished and installed a few years ago.



We've upgraded our camping gear at yard sales and the Goodwill for years, we have propane Coleman stoves in a couple configurations and are presently using a propane Coleman lantern I picked up at the Goodwill a couple years ago for less than 5 bucks to light our living area from OUTSIDE so bugs go away from where we sleep. We've got Sterno stoves, folding, winged stoves that use fuel pellets and I always liked to use rocks around a small fire to put a pan or coffee pot on. Of course we kept the original cardboard solar cooker we built one really bad winter on the kitchen table with wallpaper paste and heavy foil. We can treat water at least 5 different ways to make it safe for drinking without having to make a clay filter that is as effective as most any commercial method, utilizing our local red clay.

Stores of curing salt for meat, bulk, vacuumed stores of dry beans and pasta, canned goods and a solid knowledge of what local plants are edible - and how we like them cooked mean we don't need MRE's. Brian reports that wild animals won't eat them and as all they're good for is baiting something FIT to eat we don't need any of those.

I'd love to have 55 gallon drums of corn, wheat, soybeans, rice and beans stored in the inert welding gas we use to preserve our bulk birdseed. Gotta have a goal!

It's all been fun and games for us for years now so NEEDING to live more simply isn't a hardship. We're currently very excited about building a refrigeration unit using zeoliteswww.massmind.org/techref/other/zeolitefridg.htm. Heat AND cold can be generated, captured and stored by these minerals in simple vacuum systems that can be people powered. It's the ONLY way we've ever found that solar energy can truly be stored for later use that doesn't require a battery and we're just jumping up and down about the things we want to do with the concept!!! Our solar heat boxes for home use are all ready for our apprentices to make and sell at an affordable rate. We're interested in parabolic solar potential - we could make STEAM power with a big enough parabola! I've looked at building solar panels, it doesn't look hard and a simple set up would sure benefit our apprentices. We are never bored and rarely discouraged. We know LOTS of things that don't work already to quote my Dad, so we're well on the way to figuring out what DOES work

Here's some of the stuff we've worked on over time:

www.metalmeet.com/forum/showthread.php?t=11194

Our apprentice's work, some industrial builds, windmill and more are covered there. I've not updated it in some time, got BADLY burned and was down for a couple months, computer problems, less time at the shop etc. I may post a link to your site for old friends at metalmeet to keep up with us to save posting in two different forums right now. Most are like-minded folks.
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Old 07-04-2014, 06:24 PM
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Our choice to "shelter in place" has led to some interesting challenges. Since we can't use our home power system we now have four deep-cycle batteries (on sale at WalMart) and four 45 watt solar panels (a Christmas present from my folks last year) providing our power. Any time we put up some solar device it rains for days, or even weeks and this time has been no exception. Even with rain and cloud cover half a day or more the solar panels are meeting our usage! Dad made mounts so we can get them off the roof (the only good place we had to put them short-term) and down to a level where I can easily chase the sun with them to improve our energy harvest. I'll get pics of that set-up when we get it in place, we need to pick up some treated plywood to screw the panel mount bases to, and then bolt the whole thing to the pipe flanges Dad welded on the mounts. He's gifted at design and has devised a simple deal that will hinge down to the ground in case of really severe weather.



Brian has been busy ordering stuff online with our new internet service. WalMart's straight talk phone and internet service is performing great with a cell booster for us. We're getting 56 Megabytes per second on the internet which is fantastic for us in an area that doesn't even HAVE cell coverage. The phone performed poorly when our battery was low, before our solar panels were in place but has done great since we got power stabilized. We may keep these services after we're past true need of them, as I suspected we are using the internet for "work" but it saves us many trips to town right now!



We should start getting deliveries this coming week. The fittings for a pipe skeleton for a shade net covering for our living area, the shade netting tarps (look up when you go to WalMart or Home Depot in the outdoor garden area, they use the shade nets and it makes a big difference.), powerade concentrate ordered by my sister Janet, etc. When we learned that the generator company would give us nearly $100 discount for paying by check - and the projected delivery date if we ordered by credit card was the 4th of July - we opted to save the insurance company money and wait a little longer for our new generator. It will ship to Brian's shop where his Dad can unload it from the truck with a forklift, cheaper for them to ship to a business address too.



We're working hard for our insurance company since they are working hard for us! Brian's friend Bill Day was able to get a far better price on the pipe for our shade structure and has it at his house until we need it. Brian found one set of 2'x4' industrial shelves, 72" tall was much cheaper than buying the two Rubbermaid plastic shelving units we had intended to get. It meets our needs, is less likely to tip over and saved the insurance company money. It all adds up and we hope to leave them with a balance on our account. We like reasonable premiums and hope everyone does their best in similar situations.



The quarantined power system at the house means we need DIFFERENT things right now, until we are restored to order. This has increased our cost for immediate need and balancing what we need now against what we will need long-term to replace our existing generator with has been interesting. We're getting a more expensive generator since we need something rated for continuous running, we'll be using it a LOT more and for longer runs as we need power to work on the house too, and the insurance adjustor simply took the difference in cost off our living allowance. We might have to get another generator in the end, to be able to power two locations but will try to work with one.



The shade netting will sure cut down on the time we need to run air-conditioning with a generator. It will pay for itself in a month or two. The more efficient generator will reduce our cost-of-living in fuel usage. An upgraded battery charger will offset a higher cost by performing quicker, using far less gas. We weigh and balance our choices carefully and Brian's doing a great job with the challenge.
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Old 07-04-2014, 06:25 PM
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Laundry is just impossible for us without our home set-up at the moment. We are considering an inexpensive "horse washing" water heater that runs on a 20lb propane tank and a garden hose. We can set a washing machine in the milk truck box with our kitchen stuff and when we get our hundreds of feet of heavy duty hose replaced we can save $1 a pound doing our own laundry. We generate close to 100lbs a week without the fire remediation we'll be doing (washing EVEYTHING!) so that deal will pay off really quickly. Since we'll be running a generator for air conditioning and refrigeration it won't be a problem to run a couple loads of laundry a day. Eventually we'll get it all done.



We have acceptable shelter, we can cook, wash dishes, wash ourselves, and produce our daily electricity. Today, we're having a day off!!! It is a LOT of work to set up "camp" for a long haul. Instead of trying to imagine what we might need, we bring things as we actually do need them, many, many trips back and forth. We figure it will settle out in a week or two, we'll have room to put things necessary to our simplified lifestyle and avoid cluttering up with things we aren't actively using.



We have decided that while we wait to begin on the structure repair (recall that whole damaged end of our home is quarantined until the legal technicalities are satisfied and completed with the generator manufacturer) we might just put in the rest of the lofted area we had planned, with a closet between the two bedrooms for structural support. If it really drags on, we can work on finishing the plumbing work to complete our bathroom and laundry facilities. It's been slow going trying to finish our home while we live in it. We've managed to get excited about the opportunity to finish some of the bigger construction projects while we aren't tripping over them!



We are remembering to treat each other with extra consideration and kindness in this stressful time. Our relationship is based on a goal of being kind to each other and we try to keep getting better at it. Our decision to view our life as a shared adventure has allowed us to move right along through the dismay of disaster toward "How can we make our lives better through this?" It is a trial that we just can't leave the place for any length of time together - we do pretty much everything we can together. Someone simply HAS to be here to monitor temperatures for our pets and provide air-conditioning as needed as well as security. We managed a short outing to Delaney Park, three miles from our home, for supper one evening after a storm cooled the heat down. By the time we returned the sun was back out and it was heating right up again. We'll be shopping for a sitter once or twice a month to allow us to have the shared outings and occasional dates we are already missing!



Friends offered us a place to stay, we'll have plenty of help when we are actually able to start doing stuff and we're so thankful for family and friends bringing us food, water, and running errands for us in the immediate aftermath!!! We sure are living well, if small
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Old 07-04-2014, 06:33 PM
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Having time to think led us to realize the adjuster was VERY specific about what they would like us to leave exactly as it was after the fire - and our big solar panels were NOT on his list. With a little rearranging we can collect all the lovely electricity they are making without using our home battery. Probably two batteries cabled together will meet our current needs for lighting in the house while we work and we should have LOTS of extra to charge the batteries we're using in our camp if we need it. I want to have a couple spares, charged and ready so if it rains for a week we won't have to run a generator for power. McMaster Carr is on it, Brian ordered the plug to fit the solar receptacle to replace the cooked one (We HAD the cables for this but they were in the burnt shed, he used jumper cables for the other end that goes to the batteries and still has the unused half of these in storage), and they'll arrive tomorrow. Our charge controller is fine so we'll be up and limping in the house very soon.



A word about the battery business for those who might be interested. "Deep cycle" batteries are meant for heavier use than your car battery, though that will work in a pinch. Ours are rated for 400 "deep cycles" which means we can fully charge them and draw from them until they are bottomed out 400 times. They will last just over a year if we use them to their full potential. We've always closely monitored our batteries, checking charge at least daily, fluid levels and specific gravity at regular intervals to see if they'd like a drink of water or acid. The "deep cycle" batteries will last a very long time if we use them in our normal manner without bottoming them out on discharge.


Look in your common old flashlight. The pointed end of a (usually) C or D cell battery touches the flat end of another. The pointed end is the + terminal, the flat end is the -. Putting the + on the - means each 1.5 volt battery adds to the next, they are connected in series. If your flashlight has two batteries it's running on 3 volts.



If instead we connect the + ends of our two batteries together, and the - ends of our batteries together, we only have 1.5 volts - but we've got TWICE the capacity / run time. This is how Brian connected our deep cycle batteries. It will provide power for a longer time and also help us suck up available solar energy, it's easier to cram electricity into a bigger storage area.


There's a simple article with tips if you want to experiment at home, here:

http://www.zbattery.com/Connecting-B...es-or-Parallel



Here's my off-grid, go-anyplace-internet setup:



A small 15 watt solar panel, it puts out 5amps of electricity in sunshine - note we don't have sunshine today...

[IMG][/IMG]


Red = positive/+, connect the positive cable from the solar panel to the positive cable (the bigger alligator clamps in the photo below) on the positive battery terminal, black = negative/-, connect the negative cable from the solar panel to the negative cable on the battery. This setup runs our RV water pump, pulling water out of a plastic barrel to the faucet on our redneck yard-sink and has plenty left over for our laptop usage. We generally disconnect anything not in use to save ghost draws so the water isn't hooked up, it uses the same size alligator clips as the battery to 12volt socket my computer charger is plugged in to, the smaller ones shown in the photo below but runs direct off the battery without a socket required.

[IMG][/IMG]


The charging cable is on the right, plugged into the laptop in the photo below. The internet hotspot is plugged into a USB port on the computer so I don't need a 12volt splitter, (one plugs in, two plugs come out the other end, just like a 110 power strip gives you extra outlets), or an additional clamp to battery socket to power internet. Brian ordered a 12volt power supply for my laptop, fixed me up with the battery to 12volt socket connector and also a 110 power supply. Nice to be able to use whatever is available without an inverter hogging power.



This little setup keeps the battery over 12 volts with the use we're giving it, even with rainy days, but the panel doesn't have enough juice to cook the battery if we don't use it. Simple, elegant, inexpensive. Brian's specialty

[IMG][/IMG]
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Old 07-04-2014, 06:41 PM
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Here's our camp power setup. Two deep-cycle batteries in parallel, fed direct power to the four, 45watt Harbor Freight solar panel arrays. A small inverter is plugged into our clamp-on battery 12volt socket, this easily meets our needs for the small 110 devices we're using for phone and internet. I think the TV antenna and cell booster cords run through a different hole direct to their devices. Note there is a direct 12volt socket too, Syd's TV, our fan, etc. all run on 12volt. Brian will improve the setup but it got us up and running IMMEDIETLY when we needed it and bought us time to work from relative comfort.

[IMG][/IMG]

It's all tucked in a weatherproof, ventilated recycled propane fridge box we made when our friend was living in the area we're in now. We made it from insualtion board and aluminum tape and it's probably 4 years old now. We COULD cover it with tin or something but we'd meant to haul it off for trash, and it serves nicely as is.


Checked this morning after replacing the small inverter with a much larger model for 110 power. We're drawing 2.6 amps of power to run our walmart phone and internet, tv (12volt model from a truck stop) and charge a cell phone. Solar panels are giving us 14 amps!

It's been raining for days so we need the power right now - and the sunshine to dry all the wet stuff from newly discovered leaks

My laptop is drawing 7 amps, the little panel is putting in 5 amps. Thus I can't run the laptop / internet forever, gotta leave time to replace what I use and make more to provide my 'running water' from the barrel/RV water pump setup.

Good news is the big panels on the house are charging extras for us! Brian got the burned cable for this replaced and I've already charged a battery with them, got another one now. I drag them back and forth in my little red wagon, they're HEAVY!
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Old 07-04-2014, 06:46 PM
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So if you want to try a little solar power for backup, you can get deep cycle batteries, for about $90 on sale at WalMart recently, and a set of Harbor Freight 45 watt solar panels that comes with a charge controller that has outlets for USB, and 12 volt for simplicity. (Available here: http://www.harborfreight.com/45-watt...8751-8527.html for $188) Set them up pointing south and you'll just have power if you need it. If you give it heavy use, turning the panels to face the sun every hour or three will get you far more juice. If you use TWO deep cycle batteries, cabeled together +'s to +'s and -'s to -'s you've got a pretty nice deal for backup lights and maybe a small 12volt fan, tv or radio. The panels come with the lights.



Check your friendly automotive store for 12volt goodies like a point of use inverter that plugs into the ciggarette lighter 12volt outlet and has a standard 110 electrical plug on the other end (READ THE FINE PRINT ON YOUR APPLIANCE AND THE INVERTER TO BE SURE YOU CAN DRAW WHAT YOU NEED ON THESE INVERTERS!), and a large truck stop for more of the 12volt appliences. Some of our friends have three sets of these mounted in their yard to provide their power needs for home use excluding large appliences, they're on the grid so they use it as needed but are happy to have backup in place.



We play the game to max our harvest, replacing cheap smaller wires with heavier gauges and running right to the battery without a charge controller, balancing our draw with panel input so the battery can never be overcharged (that'll kill the battery dead). We do stuff like run a small solar panel direct to a battery that powers our weather station. We ran the system for several years on an old car battery with great results, balancing draw with input is the way to win! I used a very small solar panel to power an aquarium pump, sizing the panel to the pump requirements without even USING a battery. We run 12volt stuff instead of 110 whenever possible to avoid loss through an inverter, every time energy changes form you lose some... I believe this type of application is the only way to really win off-grid. If something happens to one of these systems, the whole thing isn't shut down! Backup is far easier to keep handy for small, simple applications too.


The details of how the reaction works can be examined here if you're REALLY interested:

www.av8n.com/physics/lead-acid.htm



Here's an animation of the chemical reactions:

educypedia.karadimov.info/library/batterie.swf

It's in french looks like but illustrates the principles beautifully. Click through with the arrows. Happy face is charged battery, sad face is discharged We're working with sulfuric acid, H2SO4, lead, Pb, lead oxide, PbO2, water, H2O. e- are free electrons, and H+ are protons.

The transfer of these little particles and affinities they create that lead to bonding and reactions drive EVERYTHING in life. I think it is a beautiful dance and stand in awe of the God that devised such a complex, productive series of mechanisms!!!



YouTube has another animation of the chemical reactions:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TvYlJ06MXo

Last edited by rj5156; 07-04-2014 at 07:37 PM.
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Old 07-04-2014, 06:56 PM
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Brian got a "Zboost" cell booster locally, $229. Took us from two bars to five. Came with everything but the pole to mount it on. Base unit is indoors only. It's doing great! Wilson makes a comparable unit, comparable price, and also some much stronger (pricier) ones. They also offer an external use model with two external antenna and one internal to boost signal in outdoor areas.

The booster made a HUGE difference!!! We do not live in an area that has coverage on cell maps. Amazing we can get anything at all, much less a strong enough signal for internet that makes us happy. We did learn that charging a cell phone too close to the booster interfered with it's signal! Brian's in charge of all things solar, electrical and such. I learned everything I just posted about solar from him the night before I posted it so I could share it



Brian is off running right now, getting a couple extra deep cycle batteries, etc. We're afraid to leave Syd unattended so I'm home. If we shut the doors to the container it gets HOT. If we leave them open I fear weasels more than anything for Syd right now! BIG responsibility having a large parrot:-O


We've ordered a Yamaha 6300 ISDE, 5,500 watt run, 6,300 watt surge. It's an inverter, pure sine wave generator. Provides 110 & 220, electric start, has load meter, fuel gauge, continuous-duty rated motor, 4 1/2 gallon fuel tank, operates at 2,600 rpm instead of 3,600 rpm, 52 decibles (ultra quiet, Syd is LOTS louder than that, 3-year factory warranty, 19 hours run at 1/4 load.

Watch the heat if you've used a propane conversion a gas generator, gas burns at around 560* (+/- couple hundred degrees?), propane at around 1093*. Fine for water-cooled but air-cooled doesn't like it hot... Brian reports that the conversion voids the warranty and liability to Honda, he seriously considered doing it anyhow but recent experience led to choosing a gas model!

Just typing in Brian's thoughts here, I get the broad strokes but the details aren't my thing. He says the new generator is blue. That's about how much I'll remember
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Old 07-04-2014, 07:00 PM
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Here's the inside of the shed and generator, where it all started, recall this went from heavy black smoke to WOOFING flames in less time than it took me to sprint out the door and around the corner!

[IMG][/IMG]


[IMG][/IMG]


We never thought about storing other things with the generator New one gets it's OWN shed! We had a twin camp-bed, a love-seat recliner and a bunch of stuff we were moving to the shop for storage as we transitioned our lives a bit.

I'd decided NOT to do the middle and high school science labs this year for the local home school group and to set up my little labs someplace where I can actually use them instead of hauling them back and forth all the time. I might offer labs to students who come to our set-up but I'm done dragging stuff back and forth! Right now I felt the shop classes were needed a lot more. I have the expensive lab stuff at Brian's shop and tell students they can borrow it as needed for their home studies.

Still a LOT of stuff in the shed burned, solar learning stuff, supplies and materials for building, electrical and science stuff, gardening supplies, and misc. items for yard use close to the house. So thankful it's covered!!!
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Old 07-04-2014, 07:10 PM
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The cleanup crew is ready to help! They're a nice young couple (probably not married unless the babies are old enough to be in the wedding, seems to be how they're doing it these days.) Their motto is "Like it never happened!". We're going with them. They were right here, we are comfortable with them and they do lots of insurance work so they can just bill for time.

They have all the goodies at their place, chemicals, ozone chamber, etc. They'll haul loads off, deep-clean them, package it up and take it to the barn that houses Brian's shop for storage where we can get to it if needed!!! They'll even seal the place up and pump ozone in for 24 hours when all is done. They start Monday

While they were looking at stuff we held our breath and checked out the cookstove. I hosed it pretty hard but it looks like it's fine!!! Thank goodness we won't have to take it apart, sandblast and refurb it AGAIN, that was a lot of work the first time.

The stove, a real treasure! It runs us out of the house when it's really fired up, even on the coldest days.

[IMG][/IMG]

Accessories, a waffle maker we found at a local flea market, the heat driven fan that sends warm air where we need it with no electricity needed, and a grill Brian made to fit into the hole on the two burner side.

We've got the cast iron goodies, griddle, large dutch oven with feet cut off for stovetop use, pans, skillets, animal cookie molds and lots more. Most of it was stored by the stove and WILL have to be sandblasted and seasoned again but at least we can fix it.

[IMG][/IMG]

Grilling steak in February, Syd's favorite! "I LIKE steak!" she tells us.

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