Friday, December 30, 2011

Look At This Quarter

See this dirty old quarter right here? Nothing particularly remarkable about it. Give it to a kid to put in a gum ball machine and it might get you a piece of candy or a little plastic toy that might last 5 minutes. It would take about 12 of them to buy you a gallon of gas if you shop around today. The last time I passed by a QuikTrip station the other day the going price was $3.09 per gallon and just before Christmas it was $2.99. It would take a bunch of quarters to fill up a gas tank.

But look a little closer. This quarter was made in 1955. Hmmm, I wonder what it would have bought you back in 1955 back when it was brand new? Let's take a look: Prices for 1955 Well how about that! In 1955 that quarter could have bought you a gallon of gas all by itself and leave you a couple of pennies over. Add one more penny to that and you could get a postage stamp. Hmmm, anybody drop a penny around here? Or you could get a loaf of bread and a couple of postage stamps with it. I bet you could get something decent out of a gumball machine too! Interesting indeed. Now here's another interesting fact about this dirty old quarter. It's made of 90% pure silver. If you were to melt this quarter down the silver alone in it today would be worth a little over 5 bucks! Check out the melt value over at Now 5 bucks today would buy you a gallon of gas and still have a couple of dollars left over. Hmmm, maybe this dirty old silver quarter has kept it's value over the years after all. Compare what $5 today would buy you with what that quarter in 1955 would buy you and it's easy to see that just the silver alone in that quarter has held up very well over the years.

The Coinage Act of 1965 was passed because the cost of silver compared to the constantly devaluing dollar caused coin shortages. People were taking the silver coins out of circulation because they were worth more than face value. And over time they have continued to hold value against the dollar as inflation has eaten away at it. If you were to stick a bunch of dollars under your mattress for 20 years then take them out they wouldn't buy nearly what they will buy you today. However if you had stuck a bunch of silver away 20 years ago you would be able to sell it at todays prices and be much better off. It might be worthwhile to keep an eye on those coins that pass through your fingers or maybe go to a coin shop and pick up a few now and then. ;-)

By the way... Go back to Coinflation and have a look at the melt value of a modern day nickel. Hmmmm, it's melting at about 100% of face value. Oh my goodness! Look here: Congress has been talking about replacing the venerable nickel with a steel nickel. Ya know, there are a lot of nickels in circulation right now and you can get them for a nickel a piece. Might be something to think about. ;-)

Thursday, December 29, 2011


After much work in the back yard yesterday and a fair amount of sore muscles this morning the green house is back to being a greenhouse again instead of a storage space for the lawn and gardening equipment. Ever since we cleared the storage building in the back yard out to transform it into Em's backyard solar powered art studio (seen here) most of the stuff that was in there migrated to the garage and into the greenhouse. There is some space behind the building between it and the back fence that we haven't done much with other than keep a compost pile there so I decided to move the pile and use some of the old fence panels we have around here along with an old tarp and put together a simple structure to keep the rain off our lawn and garden tools. It seems to have worked out pretty well and I took one of those $11 grow lights and put it into the green house along with a floodl light (for warmth) with the fern and blackberry plants we have in there now.

According to Farmer's Almanac several of the plants I intend to start this Spring should be sewn the last week of January to the first week of February for my area (for indoor planting). My sister Jeanie told me a week or two ago that our grandfather used to start his tomato plants the last week of December but I'm not going to attempt that this year. We do have a couple of onions going and I tried to get some Spinach seeds from 2009 to germinate indoors under a grow light but no luck. I think they might have been exposed to some extreme temperature swings so I don't expect much out of them. Jeanie and June (another sister who lives in Oregon) want to get together and place a seed order this year so we can pool our resources and get a greater variety. I am planning to take the grapevines out and replace them with a variety of Kiwi's that are said to do well here that don't get the furry peel on the outside like the varieties you see in the grocery stores. They are smaller, about the size of a large grape, but you can slice them up and eat them with the peel on. Did you know Kiwis come from New Zealand? I should have known I guess but I always considered them to be a tropical fruit. Not so! They are said to actually grow quite well here in North America. We'll see I guess. I wish I had paid more attention to my grandfather's when I was a kid. They knew a lot about vegetable gardening (one was a farmer but left the farm and came to work at General Dynamics around World War II the other was a farmer til the day he died). I could have learned a lot from them. My mom always had a green thumb with house plants and I grew up with lots of greenery always around.

But I am learning now and hope to really develop my skills this season. It's good to grow your own food for several reasons. Better, healthier food for your family, good exercise working with the garden, tastier food with varieties you won't find in the grocery stores and it's a great way to combat foodflation. Yes, I think I just invented that word. At least my spellchecker seems to think so! ;-) While looking over our household budget I realized we actually spend more money on food each month than we do on our mortgage. It is the single biggest expense we have. A penny saved is a penny earned so I'm going to try to offset as much of that cost to us that I can. I'd love to hear from more expert gardeners and folks who want to join me on my journey of self sufficiency so please leave me some comments!


Tarrant County Master Gardener Association

Gardening Channel - Gardening in Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington and North Texas.

Permies - Goofballs That Are Nuts About Permaculture

Aggie Horticulture - Home Vegetable Gardening

The Dirt Doctor Howard Garrett

SquareFoot Gardening - Mel Bartholomew

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Solar Ovens

In our family's journey toward greater self sufficiency one of the goals I have set for 2012 is to build at least one solar oven. I first learned about them while reading a blog years ago and always found the idea of cooking with the power of the sun kind of intriguing but never got around to it. But while I was going through The Survival Podcast show archives a week or so ago I heard Jack Spirko mention a guy up in Canada who built one and in February, during the dead of Winter but on a sunny day, with temperatures in the lower 30s this guy cooked a rack of baby back ribs. Granted it took all day to cook them but they came out perfect!

I had always considered a solar oven to be kind of a Summer thing that would be useful on a hot sunny day. Maybe when out camping if there had been a rain and all the wood was wet so a fire couldn't be built. Or another alternative to charcoal and propane grills to use for cooking in case the electricity went out for an extended length of time. But this guy did it on a cold day! Now I'm hooked. I have been digging deeper into these solar ovens and learning more. There are some sites that sell  ready built ones but they seem kind of pricey to me and I love learning by doing it myself. Plus, I've read where some have been put together with cardboard boxes, newspaper, aluminum foil and a piece of glass. So if a rudimentary but working model can be made with so little material that's a pretty handy skill to have in a SHTF scenario.

There are even some sites that have recipes for items you can bake in your solar oven which I will include in my Resources at the bottom of this post. Jack says he likes to use Marie Callender's Cornbread Mix and bake cornbread muffins in his. Well worth a try I'm thinking! After the solar oven I want to try making a solar food dehydrator to preserve some of the excess that we might get from the garden this year if things go well. It should be fun, inexpensive and a good learning experience for myself and the kids. I'll post pictures and maybe a video in the future as I explore this. Check out some of the links I have been researching to learn more:


How To Make A Solar Oven on eHow  A nice 13 step instruction article.

Sun Oven International Recipes Page Quite a recipe list!

Making and Using a Solar Oven on Backwoods Home Magazine Someone on the TSP Forums posted this link and it has a pretty good looking, basic cardboard box design that might be a good starting point.

Plans For Solar Cookers on

Do You Want A Solar Oven? A lot of video tutorials about Solar Cookers and a good chance to see some of the designs in action.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

If The Ad Claims...

If the for sale ad claims... It really means...

rough condition... too bad to lie about

parts car... beyond repair

immaculate... recently washed

contours... recently waxed

engine quiet... if you use 90-weight oil

needs minor overhaul... needs engine

needs major overhaul... Phone the junkyard

burns no oil... (it all leaks out)

rebuilt engine... Cleaned the spark plugs.

Drive it away... I live on a hill.

Drive it anywhere... (within 10 miles)

desirable classic... No one wants it.

rare classic... No one wanted it even when it was new.

stored 20 years... (in a farmer's field)

ran when stored... Won't start.

never apart... Bolts too rounded to loosen.

solid as a rock... rusted solid

restored, with 0 miles... Won't start.

restored, with 2 miles... Won't stay running.

older restoration... First owner washed it.

good investment... Can't be worth much less.

no time to restore it... Can't obtain parts.

95% complete... Other 5% doesn't exist.

Other interests conflict... Spouse's ultimatum: "Either that #!!@&## thing goes or I go!"

Doesn't smoke... when it's out of oil.

New slick racing tires... I burned the tread down to the belts.

Re-upholstered... New K-mart seat covers and floor mats.

Major preformance upgrades... Bolted a new exhaust tip on the tailpipe.

Kept in garage... The scratches are from my cat.

Pampered/adult driven... I'm 17 and I think it's about to die.

Complete restoration... New Earl Scheib paint.

New paint... Don't let it get wet.

Sporty... It's got a floor shifter.

Family car... There's still food under the seats.

Good school/work car... More dents than a golf ball.

Worth $xxx--sacrifice for $xx... I can't believe I paid $xx for it myself.

Lots of extras... Everything that fell off/out is in the trunk.

Quiet engine... You can't hear it over the broken headers.

Traction control... Starts moving only in 2nd gear.

Race modified... It's got Japanese stickers on the back window.

Exotic... It leaves a funny taste in your mouth.

Precision machined... I used a degreaser.

FAST... -ER than my mom's Geo.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Country Kid Writes Home

Dear Ma and Pa,

I am well. Hope you are.. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the MarineCorps beats working for old man Minchbya mile. Tell themto join up quick before all of the places are filled.

I was restless at first because you get to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m. But I am getting so I like to sleep late. Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smoothyour cot, and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing.

Men got to shave but it is not so bad, there's warm water. Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food, but tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the two city boys thatlive on coffee. Their food, plus yours, holds you until noon when you get fed again.It'sno wonder these cityboys can't walk much.

We go on 'route marches,' which the platoon sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it's not my place to tell him different. A 'route march' isaboutas far as to our mailboxat home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks.

The sergeant is like a school teacher. He nags a lot. The Captain is like the school board. Majors and colonels just ride around and frown. They don'tbother you none.

This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting.I don't know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and don't move, and it ain'tshootingat you like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don't even load your own cartridges They come in boxes.

Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, theybreakrealeasy. It ain't like fighting with that ole bull at home. I'm aboutthe besttheygotinthis exceptfor that Tug Jordanfromover inSilver Lake.I onlybeathim once.. He joinedupthe same time as me, but I'm only 5'6' and 130 pounds and he's 6'8' and near 300 pounds dry.

Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get ontothis setup and come stampeding in..

Your loving daughter,


Sunday, December 04, 2011

Poor People?

One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son
on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of
showing his son how poor people can be.
They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of
what would be considered a very poor family. On their
return from their trip, the Father asked his son,
"How was the trip?"
"It was great, Dad."
"Did you see how poor people can be?" the father
"Oh Yeah" said the son.
"So what did you learn from the trip?" asked the
The son answered, "I saw that we have one dog and they
had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of
our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We
have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the
stars at night. Our patio reaches to the
front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a
small piece of land to live on and they have fields
that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve
us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they
grow theirs. We have walls around our property to
protect us, they have friends to protect them."
With this the boy's father was speechless. 
Then his son added, "Thanks dad for showing me how
poor we are." Too many times we forget what we have
and concentrate on what we don't have. What is one
person's worthless object is another's prize
possession. It is all based on one's perspective.
Makes you wonder what would happen if we all gave
thanks for all the bounty we have, instead of worrying
about wanting more.