Thursday, January 24, 2019

Seven Fat Cows 2.1: Trial Run

Rick jollied Kate into making a two day "trial run" of their preps.

Kate was onboard with the wood heat but opted out of the diet. She did agree, however, to document the experiment.

The trial run was a fiasco from the start.

The cistern pump that Rick had purchased on-line was not able to pull water from the well. If Rick had researched a bit more he would have learned that "sucker pumps" can only pull water up twenty-five feet or so. The water in his well was a good forty feet below the surface. Even pulling from a spigot in his basement left him trying to pull too much.

Then he found that getting water from the nearest source of open water, Kelly's pond, left much to be desired in the winter time. He had to spud a hole through the ice and lift it out with a scoop. Then carry the five gallon buckets to the truck.

Half the water sloshed out on the way back.  Kate asked what the plan was when the gasoline ran out. Rick did not have a good answer. Kate made notes in her spiral notebook.

Rick boiled the water on the stove. The stove used LP gas. Kate asked what his plan was when the LP ran out.  Rick did not have a good answer. Kate added to her notes.

Then Rick started a fire in the fireplace. Once it started going he turned on the blower. Kate looked up, "I thought the grid was down?"

Rick turned off the blower. Almost no heat entered the living space. Kate donned a parka and mittens. That, as much as anything, aggravated Rick. Kate's exact age was privileged information, it was sixty give-or-take something, but Rick still found her attractive and was perplexed that she was looking like the Michelin man.

On Saturday, Rick broke open one of their oldest five gallon, food storage buckets. It contained white rice, split peas and vegetable oil. The air seal on the bucket had broken and pantry moths had gotten in. Rick washed the insect remains out of a couple handfuls of the rice and boiled it for breakfast. Kate looked the other way when he drank a cup of coffee from the pot she had brewed. Rick was a bear when he did not get his caffeine.

Rick's lunch was white rice with green-pea gravy as was his dinner. He was going to add vegetable oil to the green-pea slurry but the oil had turned rancid in its plastic bottle.

By noon Sunday Rick was constipated and had no energy. His lethargy left him cold. It was all he could do to pry himself off the couch and drag in more firewood...firewood that wouldn't provide any heat.

He was also bored out of his mind. He was used to getting on-line. He had a few favorite TV shows. It was like an itch he could not quite reach far enough to scratch.

The postmortem was enlightening.

The rule-of-threes puts water at three days. Clearly, something had to be done. After batting about several ideas, Rick and Kate decided on a roof-top collection system for spring-summer-fall and a solar powered, immersible pump for winter.

The solar powered pump could irrigate the garden and orchard during the summer.

The issue of heating raised a bit of a quandary. Kate wanted things to look nice. She was not ready to jump right to a wood stove. She thought most of them were hideously ugly.

Rick had to do some research before he found a wood stove that had glass that wrapped around the fire. Kate bought into that kind of stove but did not want it in the center of the room.

United Nations level negotiation ended up with the wood stove 24 inches in front of the old fireplace and spun thirty degrees from square. That was so the heat radiating from the back of the stove reflected off the back wall and into the room rather than heating up the wall behind it.

The stove pipe ran up parallel to the fireplace chimney to within 12" of the ceiling and then "Teed" horizontally through the wall. Rich had learned that much of the heat thrown off by a wood stove is actually radiated from the stovepipe. The "tees" made it easy to clean the pipe.

The lethargy was a bit of a mystery until Rick was watching one of his TV shows, Live Below Zero. It was the episode when several of the characters affirmed that absolute need for fat in cold weather. It was a light bulb going off for Rick.

The soybean oil in plastic bottles was removed and replaced with "creamy", partially hydrogenated vegetable oil packed in glass whiskey bottles scrounged from a willing bar owner. Partially hydrogenated oils have very low linolenic acid (18:3) content, the component that goes rancid the most quickly.

The other revelation was the food buckets. Rick had packed them with the intention of having them last one adult for one month. Extrapolating, it was far more realistic to plan on having them last 20 days and to include instant coffee or tea, bran, salt-and-pepper, vitamin tablets, a deck of cards, a paperback mystery and a minimum of three liters of oil.

Next Installment


  1. Don't stock lard, even though it is hydrogenated. Mine was rancid by year five. Stay with shortening.

  2. Dry runs WILL point out every flaw... sigh

    1. And that is 100% the point of the exercise: To find weaknesses before the bullets are flying overhead.

  3. I live 250 miles from the nearest Costco store and 40 miles from the nearest grocery store that will sell me a couple pounds of fresh hamburger so I tend to keep my cupboard well stocked. Why not stock the oil or shortening you usually use in extra quantity and rotate stocks. Same with beans, rice and pasta. I keep some spam and canned ham on the shelf to add flavor and animal protein to the beans if one runs out of refridgerated or frozen meat. We also have home canned meat on the shelf. Since we live off grid our freezer is 12 volt and solar powered in Summer so grid down problems apply to long term resupply. I don't understand "prep food buckets" with mutiple items unless you are planning on having to grab them and run. By the way most carb foods run about 2000 calories per pound, fats run 3000 and most dry proteins split the difference depending on how much fat. Just in case you do need to grab and run.

    1. Great set-up!

      Two reasons for buckets.

      Grab-and-go as you speculated.

      The second reason is that buckets offer one more layer of protection against the elements and the weather. Rather than open four different buckets and put 120 pounds of supplies at risk, open one and live out of it.

      By my calculations, fat runs 4000 calories to the pound so it is an even better deal.

      Thanks for reading.


  4. I've noticed that when I put Hot Hand hand warmers in button top jars between uses they cause the jar to pressure seal as they deplete the oxygen inside. This leads me to wonder if they could be used in storing food to both cause a container to seal and to remove oxygen from the interior.

    1. In short, yes. They are effective at removing oxygen.

      The issue with storing oil is that oxygen molecules can percolate between the plastic molecules of the container.

      Thanks for commenting!

  5. Oils / fats lubricate joints; human brain is mostly fat.

    Unrefined coconut oil, never hydrogenated.

    Olive oil in dark glass bottles.

    Rotate! Organic! And, of course, naturally, BACON!