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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gettin' Cheesy

I figured I have probably pushed the outer limits of "shelf fresh" with some of my powdered milk.

I packaged a number of vacuum sealed bags, each with about 3/4 of a pound of powdered milk.

If you look a bit more closely, you'll see that I put this stuff into storage in February of 2008.... just a bit past the "best by" date ;-)

Since I can't stand the taste of powdered milk, even when it is right from the store, I figured I would try making some cheese.  Better than just tossing the stuff into the garbage.

For the record, the milk had held up remarkably well.  It truly tasted the same as newer powdered milk.

Anyways, I found this recipe online -

Quick Soft Pressed Cheese
2 c. boiling water 1-1/2 c. dry milk powder
3 T. vegetable oil
1 c. buttermilk
3-4 T. fresh lemon juice
cheese coloring tablets (opt.)

Blend water, milk and oil, allowing foam to settle slightly. If colored cheese is desired, add ½ tablet cheese coloring (or cake decorating paste color) while blending. Pour into hot saucepan coated with a nonstick spray and heat to at least 160 degrees. Add lemon juice and continue to stir until mixture curdles. Pour into a cheesecloth lined colander. Rinse curds with warm water, then salt to taste. Place cheese in cloth between two plates or spoon into a cheese press. Apply weight and let sit for ½ hour or longer, depending on how firm you want the cheese to be. Remove from plates or cheese press, rinse, wrap in plastic and refrigerate. Use within one month or freeze. This cheese can be sliced, grated, or crumbled.

For Smoky Cheese, add
½ t. Liquid Smoke flavoring and
½-1 t. salt after rinsing curds.
Pretty interesting process.

I made up the buttermilk by making a cup of re-hydrated milk (1C cold water and 1/3 C powdered milk), adding a tablespoon of white vinegar, and letting it sit for 5 minutes.

This gave me 4 cups of cheese-makin' juice!

I then followed the directions to the letter.

Since the water had been boiled, it came up to the 160F pretty quickly.  I stirred and checked the temp all along the way (5 minutes or so).

I then added 3 Tablespoons of lemon juice, and Viola! curds and whey! (click the pic for a better look)

This is right after it "broke".  I kept stirring, and in a minute or so, it was very clearly separated between the white curds and the yellowish whey.

I dumped the whole mess into a cheese cloth covered colander -

This picture is a bit deceiving, in that the curds look like cottage cheese.  Nope.  It is very "rubbery" to the touch, and has virtually no real flavor.

I "fluffed" it up, and rinsed it with warm water. 

After draining for a bit, I added a little bit less than a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and mixed it all together.  Really, pretty good tasting!

I then squeezed as much of the remaining moisture out (probably should have done that before salting the cheese).  I wrapped it up with the cheese cloth from the strainer into a square shape, and wrapped THAT in another piece of cheese cloth -

The block o' cheese was placed between two plates, and I added an almost-full bottle of soy sauce as a weight.

I let this sit for 30 minutes.  The cheese was firmer, but still too crumbly, so I wrapped it all up and weighed it down for another 30 minutes.

I need to make a cheese press!

The extra half hour didn't make much of a difference, so I figured it was time for a taste test.

First, I weighed what I had made - just under 5 oz of cheese -

As you can see, it's quite crumbly.  The patty held together well, but breaks apart easily -

I crumbled some on a tortilla to make a quesadilla.  Now, most cheese recipes I read indicated that this kind of cheese won't melt.

They were right!

I nuked the tortilla and cheese for a minute, and while the cheese got softer, it never really melted.

The flavor was very good though.  Actually a bit of sweetness.  I had my wife try one of the wedges of the quesadilla and she liked it (not knowing it was made from powdered milk).  Her only suggestion was for more salt.

The texture is like a common Mexican cheese, queso fresco - fresh cheese.

As this is published, I've got another batch made up where I added more salt and a 1/2 tsp of liquid smoke.  I've got a new cheese press, of sorts.  I want to give this a bit more time to firm up.

I'll share the results and some more pix in the next post.

Accept The Challenge

I was quite pleased with the results of my little experiment.  Nice, fresh cheese from that disgusting powdered milk!

I think I will next try for one of the cream-style cheeses - something I can slather on a bagel.  Mix in some spices and perhaps some diced onions and end up with a real schmear!

This worked out very well, in that I won't be throwing the powdered milk in the garbage.  The only palatable use I've found for this stuff so far is in chocolate pudding and a couple other recipes.  Being able to make a quick and easy cheese is a big bonus.

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Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Resist The Fear

The president is all over the media preaching how our country will go down the tubes if we default on our interest payments on our national debt.  He's actually right.

What he is being disingenuous about - at the very least - is that raising the debt ceiling (the Continuing Resolution, or CR) is necessary to prevent a potential debt default.  This is nothing more than fear mongering.

Obama, as president, has choices to make.  Do we continue to fund federal agencies and programs that are not authorized by the Constitution - such as the NEA, the DEA, HUD, Labor Department, Education Department, et al - or do we pay our bills?

More importantly, and tied to the hip of the previous question, do sane people borrow money to pay other debts?

I'd answer that by saying, in an emergency situation, such as a real war, you may do it.  You'd consolidate your debt, borrow a bit more to keep your creditors at bay, then you'd tighten your belt, do away with frivolous spending, and pay it off as soon as possible.

From Washington, the answer always seems to be the same - Austerity is never the answer:  Borrowing is.

How's that philosophy working out?

In the last week, I must have had this same conversation at least 4 or 5 times a day:  "So, how high are gold and silver going to go?  Is this bubble going to burst?"

I tell them not to get sucked in by the doom-and-gloomers on either side of the equation.  Don't think precious metals will rise in price forever, and don't think that we're in the middle of some economic bubble that's artificially inflating PM prices.

I ask them a couple of questions:  What do you think is causing PMs to rise in price, and do you think those causes will change direction any time soon?

If they're in our shop, they've already asked and answered those questions, and are just looking for reinforcement.  They know that the federal government is unlikely to stop spending more than it brings in.  It will fund those excess either by more borrowing, higher taxes or both.

No good answers.

Many just finished doing their taxes, and saw the paltry numbers they had to provide for "Interest Income" from their savings accounts.  Banks aren't paying squat.

The stock market makes no sense.  It's got the feel of a classic "bubble" of epic proportions.  When profits are largely a product of expense reductions - cutting people, locations or capacity - this is a temporary patch done to "weather the storm".  It's become the norm.  Hell, many banks make more money now from stock trading and asset sales than they do from interest income.

Last man out gets left holding the empty bag.

I then tell them that at sometime in the future, it will make sense to sell PMs and convert the proceeds into something else.  What that is, who know?  It's whatever makes sense at that time.

Personally, I think real estate will soon be fully "corrected" and prices will be more realistic.  I think residential, commercial and raw land still have a ways to go before they're priced right.  But it's getting close.

Accept The Challenge

Don't act out of fear.  Act with knowledge.  Never, EVER only listen to one point of view.

Personally, I search high and low for opinions and facts to tell me why PMs won't continue rising for at least the immediate future.  Give me data I can research.  Give me a hypothesis I can test.  Give me far-fetched conspiracy theories.  Give me SOMETHING!  Help me question what I see and believe.

Crickets chirping is all I get.

Here are some things that could cause the price (not necessarily the value) of PMs to drop:

-  The Federal Reserve raises interest rates on the money it lends to banks.  If logic prevailed, this would mean banks would pay more interest on savings and people might move from PM to savings accounts, causing PMs to drop in price.

I don't know if this would happen, though, as banks would have to increase their interest income (on loans) to offset these costs.  They're not borrowing from the Fed to make business and home loans at nearly zero interest costs NOW, so why would they do it at higher costs?

-  A major competing currency takes a hit.  If something (more) disastrous happened to the euro, the pound, the yen or other major currency, the dollar would rise in relative value, causing the price of PMs to drop.

We just saw Japan take a hard shot to the chin with the earthquake/tsunami/nukes, and their government is printing up gazillions of yen to pay for the mess.  The EC is in tatters with a number of member-states nearing insolvency.  England [is in the middle of an austerity program], yet PMs have continued to rise.

-  A rush to the perceived relative safety of bonds.  That requires business fundamentals to be strong, so they can expand their companies by borrowing via bonds.  Anyone see businesses expanding any time soon?

And why would you buy US Treasury bonds or city/state Municipal bonds when none of them have sufficient revenue streams to pay you back?

-  Real inflation (not the fantasy numbers produced by the US) drops significantly.  That would include the unreported "volatile" food and energy numbers.  If you think you will have the ability to spend the same number of dollars each month, but get more goods than you did the month before, PMs are not for you.

-  Calls for more "sacrifice" from taxpayers to continue funding the lifestyle of non-taxpayers will cease.  This implies that government will spend no more than it takes in.

Someone convince me any of these are likely, or that there are other possibilities to make the value of the dollar increase/PMs to decrease.

I'll leave you with this thought::  Ten gallons of gasoline at $4 per gallon will cost you $1.20 in pre-1965 silver coins...

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Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Butcherin', Green Sprouts and More Wasted Money

I might be killing a chicken this evening.  A buddy of mine has some chickens, and I guess one drew the short straw.  A few months a go, I told him that I wanted to do "the deed" whenever they were ready for a fried chicken dinner....

This should be interesting.  Time to re-read the info from my Emergency Preps Bible.  I've cleaned and gutted some big fish in the past - 35 +lb salmon - so I'm not worried about dealing with guts.  It's the feathers I'm curious about.

Should be interesting.

Here are some updated pix from another buddy's garden.

Yeah, baby, Spuds a-sproutin!

Here are the half dozen or so we planted in a mound -

And finally, the rest of his garden comin' up green -

If we ever got some steady, consistent sun, this would really take off.  Patience.... patience...

Hey, did ya hear that Da Prez is putting together a commission to get to the bottom of the spike in oil prices.  Yeah, baby!

Hey, hopefully it will be as successful and its recommendations will be followed as closely as they were for the Debt Commission.


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Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Precious Metals Security

There seems to be lots of chatter around the Internet that silver and gold are overpriced and ready to take a fall.  Some guy even made what essentially amounts to a $1 million bet that silver will drop to around $25 an ounce from the current north-of-$40 price.

Could be, I guess.

I just don't see how it's going to happen, at least not in the foreseeable future.  And no one predicting the decline has yet to provide reasoning for a "correction".

Anyways, I'm not going to try and convince anyone either way.  I've given my pros and cons on PMs before.  You either think PMs are right for you, or you don't.

If you do have or want gold or silver, you have one other thing you need to consider:  Security.

Tag, you're it.  Unlike a bank, if you're robbed, you will most likely have no recourse to recover your losses.

Some things to consider - 

>>A TL-30 safe - these safes are rated to withstand the efforts of a professional thief for 30 minutes.  This is the type of safe we are required to have in our PM shop for our insurance coverage.  Interestingly, the bigger the safe, the less it will cost you!

These are big, bad safes.  We have one that weighs over 4,000 pounds - empty.  It cost us around $500.  A smaller one that tips the scales at around 2,000 lbs ran us almost $2300.  You obviously need a floor structure that can handle the weight.  Many folks place them in their garages.

They are fairly easily found online.  Be sure to negotiate delivery as well, which will usually run you a few hundred extra dollars.  Trust me, it's well worth the extra expense...

>>Bait safe - very often used by homeowners.  It is a decent looking safe that is placed in a fairly obvious location, such as the master bedroom closet, and is filled with pennies, washers, etc.  Anything to give it weight and the sound of coins.  Make it small enough so the bad guys can pick it up and run away with it.... missing the hidden stash of coins and bullion in your home.

>>Geographic dispersion - the old, "Don't keep all of your eggs in one basket" philosophy.  If you are targeted, and they find your stuff, it's not ALL of your stuff.

Just make sure you remember where you've stashed your stash!  A few years back, I had a part of our silver in a homemade "fake" #10 can of food.  I freaked out when I couldn't remember that I had put the silver in the can!

>>Alarms and Dogs - dogs and alarms do two things:  They give you advanced warning that someone is coming, and they tend to scare away most thieves.  Bad guys want an easy "mark" and you've added a level of risk they don't want to deal with.

Handguns and shotguns help to reinforce your intent to protect your property when an alarm is sounded...

>>Shut your pie-hole - don't tell people that you have PMs.  Think about it - what benefit do you gain by disclosing you own gold and silver?  Bragging rights?

Did you see what has happened in Japan after the tsunami?  It seems that many Japanese people don't like to keep their money in banks.  They've reasoned that since they're not getting paid any interest (sound familiar?), they might as well keep their cash and valuables in home safes.

Well, when the tsunami hit, all of their home safes got swept away!
Safes are washing up along the tsunami-battered coast, and police are trying to find their owners — a unique problem in a country where many people, especially the elderly, still stash their cash at home. By one estimate, some $350 billion worth of yen doesn't circulate.
There's even a term for this hidden money in Japanese: "tansu yokin." Or literally, "wardrobe savings."
This reinforces the need for geographic dispersion.  It also makes sense to have some form of documentation inside of the safe indicating that the untraceable cash and bullion inside is YOURS!

Accept The Challenge

The concept of geographic dispersion first really sank in for me while watching this old-timey movie on a nuclear blast that hits LA (I can't remember the name of the movie, but watched it online for free).  The family had gone on a vacation, LA got nuked, and they were out in the hills when it went off.

The father had decided to dig a number of caches around their new "home" in the hills and filled them up with their food and goods.  If/when they were attacked, a family member could "crack" and give up the location of their food in a single cache without risking everything.

Even in a regular, normal society, people want to steal your stuff.  More so when times are tough, and people become desperate.

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Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Most Important Non-Holiday

I was looking at my Google calendar last week, planning out the rest of my month.  I have the "US Holidays" option set so I know when to plan gun classes or schedule time at the precious metals shop.

I noticed that this week, there were two entries:  On Monday, it showed "Tax Day" and on Friday, it noted, "Earth Day".  Can I see a show of hands for anyone who knows what was missing for today?

Like Tax Day and Earth Day, it's not a federal holiday, but April 19 should be.  Today, in 1775, the first shots were fired - The Shot Heard 'Round The World - at the battles in Lexington and Concord.

The American Revolution was on.

Ironically - or perhaps not - the first shots were fired over gun control.  The Brits were going to Concord to seize or destroy the armaments held by the local militias.  The Good Guys got word of this, drew a line in the sand, and the rest is history.

The local colonists had tried discussion, pleas and protests.  None worked.  Defense of their property and their right to self-determination took precedence.

IMO, this date is much more important than the Declaration of Independence because it represents actions, not words.

I wonder if we're reaching a similar breaking point in current times....

Take a look at the Wikipedia entry regarding 'The Shot'.  It gives a brief nod to this - even acknowledging it is the original meaning - yet it gives no detailed explanation.  It jumps to the shots taken at Archduke Ferdinand which precipitated the start of World War I.

Sure, let's dumb-down American history.  Wouldn't want those gun-toting, God-fearing, loose-cannon, racist, poor-people-hating Tea Party folks to get any ideas, right?

Want to kill two birds with one stone (so to speak)?  Take your kids to an Appleseed shoot.  They'll get excellent Rifleman instruction coupled with a healthy dose of American Revolutionary War history.  Well, accurate Revolutionary War history.

I took the course last year (articles on my preparations here and here, results here), and cannot speak highly enough of the program.  In every one of my NRA handgun classes, I wrap up the, "Other Training Opportunities" portion with a plug of Appleseed - even though it's not an NRA program.

Accept The Challenge

Fight the pablum taught in public schools regarding American History.  Teach your kids, your friends, family and anyone that will listen, what happened and WHY it happened.

It's clearly not in the best interest of a sitting government to teach the benefits derived by an armed insurrection.  So they don't teach it, or just pass over it as an afterthought.

Does anyone see the correlation between the folks now paying for your kid's education (uhm, redistributing YOUR tax dollars) with the slant given in classrooms?

Yeah, me too.

The Commie's had it right - control what is taught to the population, and you can control the minds of the population.  It's why "Free education to all children in public schools" made the 10 Planks of the Communist Manifesto.

Let that sink in a bit...

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Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I had mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to make hardtack.  You know, the stuff the old-timey sailors and western pioneers used as a staple while they traveled.

There are a number of recipes across the Internet, so I chose one that was really old.  I figured I'd start with an original recipe to get an authentic "flavor" for the stuff.

I chose a recipe from this site.  I started with the Army Hardtack recipe:

* 4 cups flour (perferably whole wheat)
* 4 teaspoons salt
* Water (about 2 cups)
* Pre-heat oven to 375° F
* Makes about 10 pieces

Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Add just enough water (less than two cups) so that the mixture will stick together, producing a dough that won’t stick to hands, rolling pin or pan. Mix the dough by hand. Roll the dough out, shaping it roughly into a rectangle. Cut into the dough into squares about 3 x 3 inches and ½ inch thick.

After cutting the squares, press a pattern of four rows of four holes into each square, using a nail or other such object. Do not punch through the dough. The appearance you want is similar to that of a modern saltine cracker. Turn each square over and do the same thing to the other side.

Place the squares on an ungreased cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn each piece over and bake for another 30 minutes. The crackers should be slightly brown on both sides.

The fresh crackers are easily broken but as they dry, they harden and assume the consistentency of fired brick.

I made up the dough with a little bit less water than suggested - about a quarter cup less.  I chopped the dough ball in half to make it easier to work with -

From what I've read, getting a consistent thickness is one of the keys.  I used the lid of a juice bottle as a "regulator" to gauge the thickness -

I rolled out the dough, and cut it into approximately 3 inch squares. -

I then used a large serving fork to dimple the face of each piece.  This was done to the front and back of each piece -

It was then into the oven and cooking them for the prescribed time.  Viola!  Hardtack -

First impressions:  As the recipe noted, after it dries, it is as hard as fired bricks.  Holy crap!  How did anyone coming across the plains in Conestoga wagons have any teeth by the end of the journey?!

I also strongly suggest making them a bit thinner.  Mine were about 1/2 inch thick.  After they were dried, they were impossible to break by hand.

My next batch will be about 1/4 inch thick.  My guess is they will be a bit more brittle and I'll have more breakage, but at least they'll be managable.  At 1/2 inch thick, these bad boys could be used as weapons!

As expected, they taste kind of like a whole wheat cracker.  I'm going to try some of the other recipes with all-purpose white flour, and more salt.  I'll package them in vacuum-sealed bags, and put them in my Get Home Bag.  They'll be more of a stomach filler than a significant caloric addition.

To consume them in earnest, I'd envision putting them at the bottom of a bowl of soup and letting them re-hydrate before trying to eat them.  Hopefully, when they're a bit thinner, they can be consumed more like a big, stiff cracker, rather than brick-o-flour.

Accept The Challenge

I'd love to hear if anyone else has made these things up.  How long will they reasonably last and how do you consume them without risking dental damage?

My wife was going to bring in this batch to her 5th grade classroom, but I nixed the ideas as I was worried some kid would bite one, break a tooth, and I'd get to pay for his tooth repairs!

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Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Food Fight!

“there is no absolute right to consume or feed children any particular kind of food ..."
Thus sayeth the Nanny.

Believe it or not, that quote is from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in response to a lawsuit regarding the ability to purchase, consume and transport raw milk products.

"Now, Chief," you may be saying to yourself, "don't go gettin' all paranoid on us.  This is just a single incident with a single product.  Chill, dude."

Students at Chicago's Little Village Academy are required to eat the lunch provided to them by the school -- a policy that has cooked up controversy among parents and educators amid a national debate about the best way to promote healthy eating for children.
This arm of the government is now requiring children to eat the food they provide.  Not suggesting.  Not offering.  Requiring.

Where are the parents of these kids?  How can they stand by and allow their children to be treated like sheep in a pen?

I have regular arguments with folks regarding the spread of the federal government in particular, and Nanny State ideology in general.  We usually butt heads over things like federal food and drug laws.

I point out that the only potential food or drug authority granted to the feds is the right to regulate commerce between the states and with foreign nations.  So, if you're growing pot, cooking meth or processing cocaine in California, you can't sell it in Nevada without the feds OK.

BUT, the feds have no power to tell you you can't produce and sell the drugs WITHIN California.  Only the state of California can make that call.

Yet look where we are.  If California and every other state had any "stones", they'd re-assert their constitutional powers and declare that they will protect and defend any citizen that follows state law, but runs afoul of unconstitutional federal law.

I believe Montana and a few other states are doing that with regards to in-state firearms manufacturing and sales.  It's a start, but is a woefully small and localize movement.

This whole idea is difficult for many "conservatives" to swallow.  They want a small fed when it suits their own personal beliefs - guns and money, for instance.  But they also want a large fed when it suits their beliefs - the war on drugs, personal freedoms (porn, DUI checkpoints, search-and-seizure laws, etc.) .  This is one of the reasons I don't call myself a conservative.  I want a small, Constitutional federal government whether I like an issue or not.

Of course, this applies to liberals as well, it's just the opposite of the conservatives.

It's all about principles.  You either embrace liberty or you don't.  Do as you wish as long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of someone else to exercise their liberties.

When a government proposes a new program to protect you, be wary.  The FDA sounds like a great idea.  All they wanted to do was ensure we're getting safe, healthy food and drugs.  Whenever you willingly transfer personal responsibility to another entity, you must give up some part of your liberty.

Look what that seemingly innocuous FDA charter has brought us.

Food has been used as a tool of control throughout history.  Read a history book if you don't know what I'm talking about.

We are standing idly by and allowing this to happen.  Re-read the position of the FDA.  They assert that THEY are in control of ALL of our food supply.  As the fascists in the Chicago school are demonstrating, they're right.

They have asserted that every single parent in that school has no right to feed their child as they see fit.  There is no finding that a parent or two was endangering the life of their child by feeding them a diet exclusively of Twinkies, peanut butter cups and chocolate milk.

They know best and just STFU.

When does your home food storage become excessive, or dangerous, or hoarding and need to be controlled by the state?  What about your seeds and garden?

A bit of a follow up:  In yesterdays post on evaporated milk, I was going to mention how food prices are going up.  A recent article discussed how the LDS canneries had a major price increase.

Yesterday, I went to the store to check prices since my last visit (a week ago Monday).  I noticed that beans, rice, pasta and sugar had all gone up.  Beans were up about 10% and my regular brand of pasta was up 40%.  Yeah, in a week.

I checked out the evaporated milk.  As I noted in the post, it cost me 75 cents for a 12 oz can.  Yesterday, the same brand, Carnation, was up to $1.22!  That's a 63% increase.  The PET brand was at the same price.  The store brand, which was 65 cents a can last week was now 77 cents - a mere 18% increase.

Accept The Challenge

For my life, this whole story emphasizes OpSec - Operational Security.  I don't have kids in school, so this isn't going to happen to me.  I won't have to go drag my kids from school because some fascist food-cop grabbed my kid's lunch.

But, I will redouble my efforts to not disclose the quantity and locations of my food stores.  Just a few years ago, it would have been tinfoil hat paranoia to consider that the government would try and tell you what you can eat.

We now have restrictions at all levels of the education system on what kids can buy or eat.  We have restrictions on the kinds of fat you can eat or that restaurants can use in the preparation of your meal.  We have restrictions on the types of dairy products we can eat, let alone purchase.

This whole Chicago thing may blow up, and we'll think we got some of our rights back.  What will happen, though, will be a slow creep of restrictions.  Even now, you can't bring cakes and cookies into most classrooms to celebrate a birthday.  They'll just extend the restrictions to what's in the lunch bag.

The only mistake these food fascists made was to take too big of a bite, so to speak.  Most successful fascists understand that you need to slowly restrict rights so that the populace doesn't notice what's going on.  Soon enough, your choices are down to Government Option One or Government Option Two.

That's no option at all

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Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Evaporated Milk

Our family drinks a lot of milk.  We have one son still living at home, and he and I go through 2 gallons of milk a week.  When we had both boys at home, it was about double that.

Milk is far and away the biggest "hole" in our home preps.  Plain and simple, powdered (any kind of dehydrated) milk sucks.  Big time.  It's palatable when mixed with something else, like pudding or worked into other recipes, but on its own, it's pretty horrible stuff.

On top of tasting lousy, powdered milk doesn't have a significant shelf life.  6 months to a year, depending on when you buy the stuff after delivery to the store.

I wanted better tasting stuff, so I decided to give evaporated milk a try.

Now, don't confuse evaporated milk with condensed milk.  Condensed milk is typically sweetened - heavily - and is used almost exclusively in baking and various deserts.

Evaporated milk, on the other hand, has been cooked down to 40% of it's former volume (60% of the water has been removed).  It comes in 5 oz and 12 oz cans.  In theory, by simply adding that 60% of water back in, you should have regular milk again.

I searched around on the Internet, and found a couple of suggestions.  The first was to add back an equal amount of water (50/50), and the other was to add back the full 60% of missing water (40/60).

To judge the drinkability, I decided to do both, and compare them to our regular milk, which is of the 2% butterfat variety.

Opening the can, the first thing you notice is that the milk has a yellow/slight caramel color.  This is due to the cooking/evaporation process.  When poured into a can, it was noticeably thicker, as expected.

I took two, 12 oz cans.  For the first, I added a can-full of water.  For the second, I added a can and a half.  Both batches went into the fridge for a couple of hours to get chilled.

Out they came, and the taste test was on -

From left to right, they're 2% regular milk, 50/50 evaporated, and 40/60 evaporated.

I tasted the regular first to set a baseline.  I then tasted the 50/50.  It was noticeably creamier on the tongue, but the flavor was very good.  It didn't taste like canned, processed milk.  It's color was quite a bit yellower than the regular milk.

The 40/60 milk was next.  Honestly, I could not tell the difference between it and the regular milk.  I was blown away.  The color was slightly more yellow than the regular milk, but if you hadn't been told it came from a can, you'd have never known.

I had my son do the same test, and he had the same impression as I did about the 50/50 milk, and said he could taste "something" vaguely different with the 40/60.  Personally, I think it was more that he knew it was from a can than it was about the real taste.

The cans I bought had over a 12 month "best by" date.  They were 12 oz and cost 75 cents each.  When made with the 40/60 dilution, that resulted in 30 fluid ounces of milk, or approximately $3 per gallon.  That's only slightly more than what I'm paying for fresh milk right now!

Accept The Challenge

If you want something that tastes more like fresh milk for your preps, give evaporated milk a try.  Be sure you check the "best by" dates on your cans, though.

The cans I bought were Carnation brand.  The PET and house brands only had a 6 month shelf life remaining.

Storage will also be an issue.  Much more weigh and bulk when compared to powdered milk.  It's feasible for home storage, but probably not a great idea for bug-out-bags or similar storage that is expected to be mobile.

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Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Entering The PM Pool

The price of gold and silver are up substantially this week.  Gold is up about 3% and silver is up around 10%.  This week (more thoughts below).  Whenever this happens, our PM store gets rushed.  People panic a bit, and buy whatever they can get their hands on.

Right now, our shop can't get American Silver Eagle coins from any of our wholesale suppliers.  The only ones we get are from customers selling to the shop.  Silver Canadian Maple Leafs had been available, but their supply is getting tight.

On Thursday, we put in an order for 500 ounces of Maple Leafs (a "Monster Box") - which won't  be delivered for 2 weeks - and all but 75 ounces have already been purchased.

These now sell for a premium equal to the American Eagles - $5 over spot.

Speaking of monster boxes, have you heard the (unsubstantiated) buzz about Tomahawk missiles?  Each supposedly contains the equivalent of more than a Monster Box of silver!

This makes sense, as silver has the best electrical conductivity of any metal.  It has huge industrial demand because of this trait.  Couple that with its use in coinage, and this helps to explain why silver increased in price by over 100% last year alone.

I've spoken about a post I wrote in August of last year where the gold-to-silver ratio was 68:1 (it took 68 oz silver to equal the price of one oz of gold).

As of now, that ratio is now 36:1.

So, let's say you're ready to jump into the PM pool.  What next?

Your very first step should be education.  Please take the time to read these articles I've posted on the subject -

Buying 90% Silver Coins

Buying Precious Metals - Part 1

Buying Precious Metals - Part 2

Buying Precious Metals - Part 3

The Inside Scoop

Then, get online or go to the library, and read more information.  Seek views opposing what I've said, then make a decision based upon how (or if) PMs make sense for you and your family.

With prices soaring as they are, the crooks are coming out of the woodwork.  We have never seen so much fake stuff come into our shop as we have over the past couple of months.  Literally every single day, counterfeit coins and jewelry is brought in.

Here's a posts on this subject -


Particularly if you are buying from a private party, YOU need to be able to verify that a coin or piece of jewelry is real.  For gold coins in particular, you should go buy a $30 micrometer from Home Depot so that you can measure the diameter of the coin.  There are a bunch of sites on the Internet that provide the diameter numbers for every coin ever minted.

This diameter test is in addition to verifying the weight.  You absolutely must weigh your coins or jewelry when buying from private parties.

In our PM store we have a very simple Excel page that has the size, weight and purity of the most common American and foreign gold and silver coins.  We just plug in the current spot market price, and it tells us the gold or silver content value for each coin.

You also want to have a magnet.  Remember:  Precious metals are not magnetic.  If they're attracted to a magnet, don't buy them!  With jewelry, the only thing that may be attracted to the magnet is the clasp.

Your magnet, if at all possible, should be a rare earth magnet.  You can get a decent sized one on the Internet for around $20.  Spend this money!

There is a cool new test (new to us) you can use to test silver with a magnet.  Silver and gold are diamagnetic.  Instead of being attracted to magnets, they're actually repelled by magnets. 

When you hold a silver coin in your hand and rub a magnet just above it (about 1/8 inch) you'll feel the coin move.  It works well with 90% silver dollars, halves and quarters, and somewhat with the dimes.  Pure silver rounds, Eagles, bars, etc., have a great deal of movement.

We test 100 oz bars by placing the bar at a 45 degree angle on a table, and setting the magnet at the top.  If it slides right off, it's not silver.  If it slowly descends, it's silver.

Now, other metals are also diamagnetic, so you should get a feel for what this feels like with known silver products.  Consider this one tool in your tool chest:  Weight, dimension and diamagnetism.


[What follows is my personal opinion.  Most folks know I am an owner of a Precious Metals shop in Northern California.  I doubt if anyone who reads this is close enough to use my PM store services.  We don't do mail order sales.  The point I'm making is, I'm not selling to anyone.  I won't personally benefit (via increased sales) by telling you what I think PM prices will do.]

How high will PMs go?  Anyone who gives you a specific number should be looked at with a bit of skepticism.  There are too many factors that can affect these numbers.  But projecting a general direction is possible - even easy.

Our government is falling all over itself, fighting over a paltry $40 billion dollars in cuts.  That is 4 days of federal operations.

Even the Congressman Ryan bill - $6 trillion in cuts - is over a 10 year period.  BFD! 

We're borrowing roughly $1.7 trillion a year.  Over 10 years, that's $17 trillion dollars.  If the Ryan bill is accepted, that means we "only" increase our national debt by another $11 trillion.  Par-tay!

Added to our current national debt, we'd be up to $25 trillion in the hole.

One problem with digging that hole is that no one wants to lend us money any more.  China is cutting back.  Japan is strapped for cash because of the earthquake, tsunami and nukes.

Enter, stage left, our Lender Of Last Resort:  The Federal Reserve Bank.  We'll just have Uncle Ben Bernanke and his cohorts create more and more Monopoly Money. 

We're half way through the Quantitative Easing II - $300,000,000,000 (three hundred billion) of the promised six hundred billion dollars to be digitally created.  This allows the fed to lend "money" [snicker] to the Treasury so we can keep the NEA, public television, and thousands of other non-constitutional departments, agencies and programs fat and happy.

The result of creating money out of thin air is that it will continue to devalue the dollars already in existence.  That means those dollars you hold right now will buy less in the future.

This devaluation of the dollar has an inverse relationship with the value of PMs.  When the dollar goes down, gold and silver go up.  PMs maintain your purchasing power.

Now, if you think our government will cut our spending by 40% this year, and every year in the future - only spending what we take in from taxes - then PMs might not be a good idea.

If you think that's going to happen any time soon, you need to have your head examined....

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Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sprouts and 'Taters

I did another batch of sprouts, as noted in Sprouts and Wishful Thinking.  Actually two batches:  One of lentils and one of mung beans.

You might remember that I did a batch of wheat sprouts and was less than impressed.  My expectations were for something like the bean sprouts you get at the store.  They were way too sweet for my tastes.  I've had a number of comments and a couple of emails telling me to sprout the wheat, dry it and use it in wheat bread.  I understand that this will make the bread much more healthy, but honestly, it's just too much work!

The mung bean and lentils were much more to my liking.

After soaking for a couple of hours, I drained them and put them in a warm, dark cabinet.  They started sprouting by the next day.  Here are the mung beans -

You rinse and drain them twice a day, and they really go to town.  After two more days, they really had taken off -

By the end of day 4, they were big, fat juicy sprouts.  I've been using them in lieu of lettuce on sandwiches.

The first batch of mung beans sprouts lasted exactly 1 day.  I had a couple of sandwiches and put the rest on a seafood salad.  Very, very good stuff.  So good, I forgot to take pictures of them fully sprouted..... my bad!

BUT, I took this picture yesterday.  These are the lentil sprouts on a Spam sandwich (yes, I actually like the stuff!) -

The lentil sprouts taste a little different than the mung bean sprouts.  When eaten alone, they've got a slightly astringent aftertaste.  Not bad, just different from the mung beans.  They still have the "sprout taste" ("taste the green color" as commenter Shy Wolf put it) I was looking for, so they'll be a regular part of my sprout harvesting.

They also lasted a very long time.  These sprouts went into the fridge a week and a half ago, and were still crisp and very tasty.

I stopped by the home of my buddy's home who I had helped with his potato crop.  I was a bit worried, as right after everything went in, we got hit with a week straight of very heavy rains and rough weather.  Hail storms, tornadoes (yeah, here in Northern Cal) and no sun.

I figured everything would be washed away.

Au contraire, mon frere -

Yep, we've had a good past week of sun, and nature it taking hold.  Not everything, but most of his stuff is starting to sprout.

I only cared about one crop - da spuds.  They just started breaking ground on Sunday.  All of the white potatoes have started coming up, but only a couple of the reds.

Here's one of the spunky white spuds -

Sure, mock me now.  But when I'm hip-high in 'taters, who'll be mocking then, huh?  ;-)

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Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, April 4, 2011

In through the nose, out through the mouth...

Sorry for the unannounced absence, but I had to decompress a bit from the daily lies and crap in the news.

TARP handing out $3 trillion to non-US entities.  Federal budget "slashing" chest-thumping.  Libya lies. Kinetic Military Operations?  Really?

And have you seen what's going on in Afghanistan with the Florida Koran burning?  The stone-age idiots are calling for the preacher in Florida to be prosecuted.  Our "leaders" are giving credence to these calls.  They say that these actions are putting our soldiers in danger.

What the hell?  Do they really think that the acts of some publicity-seeking preacher are pissing off Afghans more than, oh say, the 100,000-plus troops we have occupying their country?

Or are they just sucking up to Muslims while discussing throwing an American's right to free speech under the bus?

I've got a question for you:  Have you been seeing an increase in the number of cops out giving speeding tickets?  My drive from home to the PM shop is about 60 miles or so each way.  Each day, I see a minimum of 5 or 6 CHPs skulking around blind corners with their radar guns.  It used to be a rarity, now it's rare NOT seeing one.

I'm to the point where I'm wishing that the safety shield on the back of the radar gun has a leak, or the emitter was put in backwards by some trusted union worker.

One of my brothers just got bagged, and I'm sure it's only a matter of time before I get hit.  I will not be a polite and respectful "subject".  I think I'll be more along these lines....

What burns my butt is how this has turned into a grotesque tax collection system.  The ticket costs, say, $30, but after court fees, court security fees, court reporter fees, scratch-my-ass-right-there fees, blah, blah, blah - all costs you pay even if you don't go to court, BTW - you're looking at several hundred dollars per ticket.

Yet no one does anything.

[I consider myself a small-L libertarian.  I'm a jack-boot fiscal conservative and a tree-hugging hippy social liberal]

Traditionally, "conservatives" have been on the side of the police.  I think a part of that has been because conservatives have generally not been "inconvenienced" by the police.  They follow the law.

But a radar gun can't tell if you're a conservative or a liberal.  It just knows the light started flashing, and another revenue hog is ready for the slaughter.  If you're going 1 MPH over the limit, you've broken the law, and the state has the "right" to dig deeply into your pockets.

Traffic laws are much less about public safety than they are about revenue generation.

I think this conservative/LEO "friendship" is slowly but surely beginning to rot away.  It will be interesting to see if this deteriorating relationship will come to a head at the same time the police are handling the upcoming social unrest from the Dependent Class when their hand-outs stop being handed out.

How might they react when both the left and the right are simultaneously tossing rocks and bottles?

I have long recognized that there is nothing I, as an individual, can do to really effect what the pinheads are doing in Washington and Sacramento.  In my town and county - yes - but not statewide or nationally.  I usually point at and mock the actors, and then make plans to minimize the impact on my life.

And that's what I've been doing.  I've got a bunch of posts queued up for this week on plumb gold, silver testing, sprouts and evaporated milk, and the walkie talkie test results.

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Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.