Friday Board of Directors meeting.  You’re in.

If you remember, your punishment for reading this column is volunteering to serve (free)  on my purely advisory BoD when I run up against a real stumper.

So let me wheel in the white board, sniff up on the market, light off a second cup and put on my presentation to “the Bored.”

No, we are not THAT worried about EMP yet, but the wording Electric Skies in Thursday’s column got a number of readers thinking in that direction again.  And amongst those readers was Joyce:

Reading Electric Skies reminds me of Nostradamus’ Century 6, Quatrain 97 that mentions “the sky will burn at 45 degrees” and “immediately scattered flame leaps up.” I used to wonder how the sky could burn, but now I think it means an EMP. NYC is the supposed target city. “Scattered flame” makes me think of lightning or meteor scatter. But no matter what, Electric Skies made me stop and go check my preps. Thanks for the reminder.

Not sure how that all plays out, but G.A. Stewart’s Age of Desolation site is a fine place to watch as the tumblers in the big lock of history click into place.

Not that we worry, to an excess, about such eventualities:  But it is important background point #1.

Point #2:  Thanks to having a built-in ranch-sitter (Elaine’s retired SF/Ranger brother lives with us in his apartment on the property) we will be taking off for a few days in two weeks foe the Peoplenomics cruise.

Not that anyone is going with us, other than the Landry’s and a couple from Georgia (or some-suck) that was going anyway.  But it’s serious unplug and work time for Robin and I to spend a couple of hours on charts, outlooks, and decompressing in general.

This cruise is also timed to coincide with  a short week for the market:  On the 7th of September we have Labor Day so I don’t look to miss much and besides, internet on ships is pretty good.

Pointy #3:  As usual, before anyone comes to visit, Elaine has me working on “necessary projects” – like changing out the BBQ.

You would think that in an advanced country, we’d be able to build a BBQ that would stand up to more than 6-seasons of use.  But darned if I have been able to find one, yet.  The fact that spare burners and heat bars are even sold screams room for improvement is you are a budding mechanical or materials engineer.

There’s a four burner plus side burner, stainless that we picked up at Lowes.  There’s normally on the order of $269 but on sale now for $197.  Fall is definitely the time of year to stock up for next summer on whatever you need.  Patio furniture gets cheap, replacement cushions, almost anything you can figure for outdoors.

Not that you need to have a good BBQ in the winter, most places.  But I live them because they are seriously EMP resistant and if you have enough propane for a year, or two, worth of coming, they are be really damn nice as a convenience.

And, speaking of convenience, we also might set up our Camp Chef Camping Outdoor Oven with 2 Burner Camping Stove which has been gathering dust, waiting for bad economic times.  When I (eventually) sell the airplane (next summer), we will be putting in a gas range, again, in case of EMP.

Granted, the EMP worries are very low in the next month, or three, but when we look out two or three years, and when the economy begins to fall into collapse, there are a number of “unthinkables” that will begin to creep up the policy option lists.  And that’s when you will want to be stocked and prepped to the gills.  Not later than Jan 1 of 2017, I’m thinking.

In the meantime, since my life tends to run 10-15 years ahead of the crowd, I would probably already be dead of a heart attack had I sucked up any longer in the corporate world.  Being out here in the low population density part of America 10 years early is better than a day late.

Why?  Because we have had 10-years of schooling.

The Real Problem for the Board:

My latest is this rot problem that Elaine found on the deck I built 8-years ago;.  Got the last of the old wood taken out yesterday.  Now, it’s just a matter of time waiting for the drop in building materials prices that’s sure to come along one of these years.  Yes it was treated wood.  Yet it rotted.

Dealing with wood rot is one of those problems that is begging for an answer from technology.  Salt, Borax, and creosote if you can find it…

Or, more correctly, there are answers, but the good ones have been legislated out of existence.  One such example is pentachlorophenol  which was simply called “penta” when I was a kid,.  We (carefully, gloves on) used it on the big deck at my parent’s home and the stuff worked great.  The deck was still there 40-years later, when I last drove by the old family home.

Flip side is that penta is dangerous stuff and there has been legal action on it.

Creosote works great (witness all the long-lasting piers along bit city waterfronts, long before steel reinforced concrete pilings were adopted.  Creosote works great, but the aromatic hydrocarbons it gives off are carcinogenic.

That leaves me with a deck that is unfinished, two weeks from company, and wondering what will really stop wood rot forever.   Not sure I’ve got the “happy” answer yet.  Best think I can come up with so far is regular treated decking since most of that is done with salt water, anymore.  Like copper and tin-laced boat bottom paint, the stuff that really protects against fouling kills everything else, whether slowly or quickly.

Even the idea of simply “rock salting” the deck during the last heavy rain in springtime doesn’t work because you get salt water runoff which kills grass and tress.  Seems like there is no winning, sometimes.

But that does warm me to the point about cascading failures:  The wood failed.  I mean you could stand on it, but it t’weren’t right.  And then, disassembly became a nightmare because just enough wood deck screws failed to turn that into something less than fun. Hand me the monster pry bar, wouldja?  

As if that wasn’t enough, the wood needed to be hauled to the burn pile.  But couldn’t get there, so our comes the bush hog on the tractor.  Things grow that fast.

Except then the tractor somehow got water in the fuel, so it quit.  And then changing out the fuel filter, come to find that I’m  down to just two more fuel oil filters, and since those are backordered…

You see what I mean?  Things can cascade out here in the woods.

Living in the outback is a continuing education course.  In the city if something goes wrong, you simply apply a large enough coating of money and the problem goes away.  Out here in the woods, and (in theory) trying to be “retired” (which is a joke as anyone who lives on more than a 10,000 square foot lot knows – there is no retirement) you are constantly finding the subtle ways that we are each our own  worst enemy.

Sometimes it shows up as wood rot, or other times, emergency repair, or a replacement BBQ.  Everything in life is waiting to fail or wear out.

I’m bright enough not to have gotten the  Sawz-all out to finish deck deconstruction until the thunderstorms had passed Thursday, giving us 3/4” of rain which was damn nice.  But the “demising of the property” to put it in commercial real estate leasese is now done.

I have learned, thanks to the way things have been rolling out over the past week, that maturity is perhaps best measured by how long it takes from when you do something, to how long it is before that same problem reoccurs.  A Lexus will outlast a deck and a BBQ combined, as it turns out.  And a Beechcraft will, in turn, out last the Lexus, BBQ, and Deck. 

Both Elaine and I have already outlasted the Beechcraft…and so ends the monologue on things that wear out.

No, I don’t want to use an engineered wood product on the deck. I framed it for #1 grade 2X6 s on 20-inch centers for 2X6 decking and by golly, that is where my thinking is.. 

One of the more interesting ideas I’ve had, though, is to build the deck back (with some added wood rot preventative treatment this time) and then spray the whole undersides and top with concrete.  I know that it would likely crack over time and look like hell, but Gunite or Shotcrete sure sounds tempting.

Except for the out of budget part, of course.

To that, Zeus-the-Cat suggested I just use the wood for forms and pout a post and tensioned elevated slab on Sonotubes.  But when it came down to him not eating for the next 7-thousand years, he began to see things my way.

The logical mind says “If you didn’t let water get under the deck, there would be no rot at all.  So why not cover it.  Close-space the decking, caulk and put some of that 10-times tick deck goo on.  Or roof the whole thing…”  Priced 2X6 T&G decking – if you can find it?

Or, I could leave  the 10X20 part of the deck that isn’t starting rot, tighten it up, caulk and seal, and then build a 4-foot bridge to it from the house.”  That keeps me under budget, easy to do, but then the idea of the outside veggie garden on the deck goes out the window.  Or becomes too small to grow a useful amount of food.

Elaine likes this last one because I made the mistake of telling her one of Pappy’s best bits of father-son advice ever:  “Don’t plant a garden bigger than your wife can take care of.”

I see the wisdom of it now:  If that rule is ignored, it too could set off another round of cascading failures.  And I certainly don’t need another one of those.  But the 20X20 deck would be great for grow boxes…

So I’m kinda open to ideas at this point.

Here’s the proposed tab to fix things in a “normal” way:  Not counting the $35 delivery fee because I am not putting 20-footers in the pickup, thanks:


So there you have it:  My presentation of the problem:  How would you solve it and within a max budget of $500, but $0 is better?

A lot of websites talk about prepping.  But there’s  the broader problem-solving course here:  Yeah, prepping for EMP is one thing.  But planning to old age is a lot more certain (provided you don’t step in front of a bus).  And a big deck with growing spaces….well, healthy eating got us this far…

Either way, old or EMP,.  it’s a different future than the one you’re thinking about most of the time, which seldom extends much past dinnertime.  But the real skill to be learned from reading all the prepping and Sunset Magazine and Family Handyman, and Woodworker’s Journal is what?

To be able to create the best possible “all purpose future” for yourself.

Send it suggestions before my shopping cart cookie expires.

Have a great weekend, see you Monday and write when you break-even.