Major changes in the world…and some are going on in remote mountain areas.

My buddy Gaye Levy (and her Survival Hubby) are on now genuine Mountain People.  Gaye recently retired from  Unable to relax, she’s already writing a new site at

Having done “all things prepper” she wants to focus on the more strategic aspects of life.  Long-term Urban readers will remember we collaborated about five years ago on the book 11 Steps to Living a Strategic Life: A Guide to Survival During Uncertain Times.

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Her site previous site (BackDoor) many of the basic prepping kinds of things we mentioned on the fly here (from 1997 through 2000-something) and really developed them as stand-alone concepts.  She produced great content and is responsible for getting a LOT of people more prepared for come-what-may.

Life is, however, broader than prepping your behind off.  There’s the matter not just of living, but living well.

What does strategic living mean?  Well, there were 11-steps when we reviewed the field half a dozen years ago (in the book) but I think we agree now that times have changed – and so has the definition of strategic – in tandem.  Some if obvious (income, education, self-reliance (and the sub-list there), but some is not.

I’ve got a questionnaire off to her – since she is a character with some interesting observations about society…so we’ll pass that along when it comes in…

Her adventure is hers except that since she (and SH) have moved to a high mountain region of what Art Bell used to refer to as “the Great American Southwest” Gaye and hubby are adapting to high altitude life.  We find that interesting.

Since both of us are ex-Seattle lowlanders, I don’t think either of us has really done a piece focusing on some of the lifestyle adjustments that go with living a mile (or more) above sea level.

Take food.  Right now, Gaye’s going though the process of “adjusting” her baking.  I’m  not sure I followed everything she explained in our weekly Skype, but apparently there is a  change of chemistry of baking the higher you go.  A bit more water, and since that boils at a lower temp in the mountains, you cook longer….well, that’s one aspect they’re adjusting to.

Another was discovering when their water heater needed replacement that such things have to be “tuned” for the altitude.  Since we’ve always considered ourselves just shy of journeymen in electrical, plumbing, carpentry, and so forth, this was news to us.

Turns out there are a number of aspects to high altitude hot water.

On the electrical side, since water boils at a lower temperature as the altitude increases, the element thermostats have to be adjusted down and the pressure relief valves are different…And that’s just with electric water heaters.

If you plan to use propane or natural gas in them thar hill, there’s another set of quirks hav ing to do with how gas burns at altitude.  See: for a useful article.

Whether you’re cooking (or setting up a water heater) this bit of science explained from the US Dept. of Agriculture (Food Safety)  website is useful knowledge:

As atmospheric pressure decreases, water boils at lower temperatures. At sea level, water boils at 212 °F. With each 500-feet increase in elevation, the boiling point of water is lowered by just under 1 °F. At 7,500 feet, for example, water boils at about 198 °F. Because water boils at a lower temperature at higher elevations, foods that are prepared by boiling or simmering will cook at a lower temperature, and it will take longer to cook.”

This is really good news if you burn yourself as you desperately slurp that first necessary(!) slug of coffee in the morning and burn yourself.

By our calculations, if McDonald’s could build all their drive-throughs at 26,000 feet, then the serving temp of their coffee would be no higher than…uh…160-degrees and that might prevent lawsuits from coffee that’s too hot.  Where were we?

Oh yes:

We talked about how Gaye’s experiment with a “thermal cooker” had gone.  I don’t know if you have seen these on Amazon, but it seems like one of those passing mini-fads in the prepping world.

The sales pitch was that you could cook in this device which had a ton of thermal mass and only apply heat for about half the cooking cycle and the thermal mass would “coast the cooking:” process (through heat retention) long enough to finish.

I asked how this was any different from putting a crock pot in space blankets and turning it off early…but the maker’s claim some magic, or other.

Well, no, there’s not really any magic, she reports.  Nice theory and all, but a couple of attempts at stews and such and things were a train wreck.

Since we’ve been friends since 1973 – and since she is the official holder of the boeuf bourguignon recipe we have both used since then (she gets inventor creds), if she says the thermal mass cooker ain’t happening for our kind of meals, I can take that to the bank.

I suppose something starchy might work…but high quality stew meat?  Needs heat, my friend, needs heat.

The GOOD news is  – high altitude or otherwise – there is something new that really rocks meals like our beef stews.  It’s called the Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, 6 Quart | 1000W and it runs ab out $100 bucks at Amazon.

What makes this cool is it gives you the cooking speed of a pressure cooker, but also (when desired) you get the bennies of a crock pot/slow cooker at well.  Now we’re getting somewhere.

High altitude, or not, Gaye’s experiments with brown rice have been coming out perfect every time.  Remember that a pressure cooker pushes the boiling temp of water UP, which is why pressure cookers cook faster than normal air pressure cooking units.

There are several other adjustments to high altitude living that Ms and Mr. Strategic-Living are going through.  Mr. for example, is not jogging around the golf course as fast.   It doesn’t seem to have slowed Gaye’s keyboarding speed, though.

I forgot to ask about impact on the dog.

Elaine and I have been trying to think of something to get them (other than an oxygen tank and AED) but nothing seems “just right.”

Honestly, a bulldozer for use during fire season sounded pretty cool until I checked prices.  Think of a Tesla price point that eats diesel but can push over trees if needed.  Used.

For now, we’re just collecting high altitude coping strategies, tricks, and so forth.  Yes, we know that modern  air mass sensors on fool-injected vehicles take care of altitude adjustments, but we still miss the mixture control of the airplane.

Then it struck us!  Maybe  we could take a drill to the dashboard of their car…and put in a mixture adjustment?  Ye sir!  That’d be a find surprise for ’em…and maybe they’d get used to it!

Send in your ideas.  We’re planning a trip out west to  visit (if Panama has enough time for house/cat sitting this summer).

I can hardly wait to get Survival Hubby out on the local golf links.  I’m damn near certain that with the thinner air my tee shots should go another 300 yards further, or more,…

Or not.

Life of Wryly: Who Walks Their Talk?

There’s an old Ure family saying.

“You can tell a confused person:  They will either act republican and talk democrat, or t’other way around.”

Today’s spotlight is on George Clooney, who has made something of a democrat name for himself, making up to $233-million selling his tequila company.  Not at republican as Trump vodka, but near ‘nuf.

Oh!  Henries!

Not, no the old dude from Eng. Lit.  Nor the candy bar.  No, sir, this is my new 4-16 henry swinging choke for our Hallicrafters Ht-45 (Loudenboomer) linear amplifier restoration project:

That 10 pounds of smart core and winding that says Peter Dahl on it was not free.  About $240 with shipping and a 7 week lead time via DigiKey.  But there it is.  Pretty huh?  (More pictures are threatened as the project comes along.)

(If you began to gag, you’re in good company, Elaine’s reaction was about the same…and she has a ham radio license!)

The difference between the men and the boys?

“The sound of their voice and the price of their toys.”

Ham radio amplifier overhauls even with custom made parts don’t even touch airplane annual inspections, though.  Nor Porsche carb balancing nor the annual sailboat haul-out and bottom paint.  This really IS a bargain…

Write when you get rich (or break par),