Survivalists are prone to testosterone soaked thoughts about the right caliber for “the big one”. I carefully and deliberately stick to smaller scales. I’ll get more mileage out of a full freezer and a big woodpile than wishing I had a bunker. This is “survivalist small ball” and it doesn’t sell magazines. However, it’s where the rubber meets the road. (Also, raising a pig and growing tomatoes tends to focus the mind in a way theory can’t.)
Last month I had a “survivalist” success. It took several tries and lots of false starts but not a lot of money. You might think it’s a pathetic accomplishment. You may be right. You might also be thinking theoretically. There’s a big difference between theory and practice. My little success was realized not in theory but right here and right now. In return the universe gave me a sweet bit of Schadenfreude. Cool!
Services around Curmudgeon Compound are as unreliable as anywhere I’ve lived. It’s hard to get things done when there’s nobody to do it. (I don’t know if it’s low population density, blue collar labor being outbid by a growing welfare state, or both?)
Furnaces need fuel. In cities, people have piped gas. Your own personal pipeline; how cool is that? That’s not an option for folks in the hinterlands. Country households must call a fuel delivery service. A fuel truck will come, pump furnace fuel into a tank in your basement, and happily bill the shit out of you. Customers never need to leave the warm glow of their TV.
Unfortunately, fuel delivery systems where I live are chaotic. A gaggle of rednecks with their own trucks offer deliver fuel. They may or may not arrive. The price and timing will be random; if the fuel arrives at all. Did I mention they might not arrive?
You get used to it. Actually I didn’t get used to it and that makes me stand out. I found it infuriating. Reliability matters. The handful of small operators that serve my area tended to let me down.
In fact the word “fuel service” is a misnomer. It’s a fluid situation indicating they might deliver fuel if they previously scraped enough money together to fill their truck, if the ice fishing sucks, if there’s nothing good on TV, and (most importantly) they’ll race to your house the day their alimony payment is due. Unless they they’re hungover, their truck is broke, or the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter is aligned with mars, in which case they won’t even answer their cell phone. None were good at the business of business. Some returned my calls, some didn’t. You can count on them arriving on schedule like you can bank on a politician’s smile. The lower my tank gets the more frustrated I get. Also their nasty habit of “forgetting” to show up got worse the colder it was. (I like to assume some hot MILF is calling at the last minute or maybe some kindly grandma is slipping them a few cookies. If I’m getting stood up so they can watch Oprah I don’t want to know.)
How to adapt to annoying oil deliveries? Learn the ropes and do it yourself! “Furnace oil” is just “off road” diesel. It’s died red to indicate you haven’t paid road tax. It will also run combines, bulldozers, farm tractors, skid steers, etc… It will run your truck too; but if you use it on the road you’ll get a ticket with many digits so put that shit out of your head right now!
Every station nearby has a pump to supply “off road” diesel. A smart monkey should be able to get fuel from the station to my house. Am I not a smart monkey?
Well at first, no.
It sounds simple. It isn’t.
First of all there’s a thing called a “transfer tank” meant for this purpose. On top of the transfer tank you install a “transfer pump”. Then the whole thing (usually) gets permanently mounted in your truck. (If you don’t have a truck got bigger problems than furnace oil!) This is the perfect solution for the care and feeding of log skidders and farm tractors.
It would also work for a furnace. Thus, predictably, it costs too much. One can aspire to being a smart monkey but starting out as a broke monkey makes it harder. Also, filling half my truck’s valuable payload with a tank I don’t always need rubbed the wrong way.
Lucky me; I scrounged a nifty 70 gallon DOT approved tank. At the time I was driving an SUV; no truck bed. I stuck the tank on the back of my little utility trailer. (A.k.a. The pony trailer: see here and here.)
Brilliant? Nope. It sucked.
For one thing, you’ve got to strap the living shit out of a 70 gallon tank to hold it down. In response I built a hefty mount. That worked better but it never worked never well.
I didn’t have a pump. I planned to use gravity. I fitted a simple garden hose to drain from the bottom of the tank to my house. Apparently the slope was too shallow? It drained slower than molasses in January.
Failure. Try again.
I took the tank out, mounted it on huge skids to lift and steady it, then stuck it back in the trailer. It rode better. I hadn’t lifted it high enough though. The gravity drain method was still pathetic.
Failure. Try again.
I took the tank off the trailer to improve the situation and dropped it on my foot. Aside from the pain (which was significant) I broke one of the fittings on the top.
Failure. Time for a better hobby? Never!