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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Wound Closure

Having been an “accident-prone” child, and then working with my hands for most of my life, I have developed an appreciation for skilled wound closure. My job puts me near a lot of agricultural equipment, which is either designed to be sharp or ends up worn to a razor's edge from use. Once something breaks, it's rarely a smooth break and there are jagged edges of wood and metal that need to be worked around.

I don't mind having scars, but if the medic closing a cut knows what they're doing, the scars are much less visible and the wounds heal much quicker.
  • I've had an intern suture up a 2” cut on my knee and when I went back after a week to have the stitches removed, they required a doctor to dig them out with a scalpel. 
  • The surgeon who worked on my neck was kind enough to make the incision in an existing fold of skin and used Steri-strips to close it instead of sutures, so the scar is really hard to see. 
  • I've seen a friend go through two weeks of IV antibiotics because a surgeon sutured up an incision so sloppily that there was a fold of skin between two stitches, leading to a nasty infection. 
Natural disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes produce a lot of damage, creating a myriad of ways to get hurt, and simple wounds like cuts and small punctures are common when you work around sharp things. If local medical infrastructure is damaged or destroyed, you may find it handy to know how to close minor wounds on your own. If you run into something that is beyond your abilities you need to find professional help, so know where your limits are and where that help can be found.

Suturing is a skill that takes practice, skill, and some training. Luckily, there are resources available to the average person that will allow you to get the practice and training. 

I am not a doctor, I don't even play one on TV. The following is presented for educational and informative purposes only. I am not responsible for any actions you take, whether you read this or not.

Animal First Aid
Part of raising livestock is learning when you need to call the veterinarian and when you can deal with a problem on your own. Dogs run into sharp things once in a while, and sometimes they get into fights with other animals and get chewed up. Goats are pretty smart and nimble, but I've seen them lose a battle with barbed wire fencing. And any hoofed animal can injure themselves or other animals during the breeding season; those horns and sharp hooves aren't there for decoration.

Since veterinarians aren't supposed to work on humans, they aren't as closely regulated as actual physicians. Looking around the Internet, I've found several mentions of things like antibiotics for fish tanks being identical to those requiring a prescription for human use. A lot of other medical gear is available without a medical license if you start your search with “vet supplies”.

Learning How
A quick Amazon search shows several medical school texts covering wound closure, but they run $50-100 apiece. There are some less expensive manuals to teach the basics, like the US Army training manual (Kindle edition only) for $12.00, or a used copy of one of the manuals printed by a suture maker for about $20.00. These will teach you the basic knots and how to choose the proper material and size of suture for differing types of wounds.

Once you have something or someone to teach you the knots, you're going to need to practice them. There are rubber practice pads available, but I learned a few simple techniques on a chicken from the grocery store. 
  1. Buy a whole chicken, or at least a large uncooked piece. A whole chicken will give you lots of room to practice and will help some people get over the squeamish feelings associated with sticking a needle into flesh.
  2. Use a sharp knife to cut into it. 
  3. Practice sewing the cut closed until you're happy with your handiwork.  
  4. Unless you're using sterile sutures and working on a clean table, I would advise that the test chicken be discarded rather than eaten when you're done. 
Sutures are readily available at most farm supply stores; look in the veterinarian aisle. If you live in an area without a Tractor Supply, Bomgaar's, FleetFarm, Farm Supply, or Rural King store handy, they all have websites. You can also shop on Amazon, where $20.00 will get you a dozen “training” sutures and three tools for working with them. “Training sutures” brings up a good list to choose from and they will deliver just about anywhere. Once upon a time I got a couple hundred “expired” sutures from eBay, but that venue has been over-run with 'bots and scams in recent years. 

A lot of doctors have recently started using Steri-Strips instead of sutures if a wound is shallow or small. They are easier to apply and don't leave as large a scar, but they have a shorter shelf-life and need closer temperature control for storage. I may have to do some more research into this method, as I've had very limited personal experience with them.

Being a prepper means becoming more self-reliant, and being able to patch up minor wounds on your animals is a good way to save the expense of calling a vet. Plus, if you ever get into a situation where you need to close a wound on another person, having the skills and materials at hand could be life-saving.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Prudent Prepping: Making CA-compliant AR Rifles

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping.

Here at Blue Collar Prepping we do not write on politics or allow others to do the same. This is not a political post, but a theoretical and practical way to make residents of the Great State of California compliant with the LETTER of state law.  

Very Important! I Am Not A Lawyer! I do not hold a Federal Firearms License! This is in no way intended to be legal advice nor am I recommending a way to bypass  your city and state laws. Your local laws may/will vary from mine.

Keeping Your Rifle Legal
California is one of a very small group of states that restrict the features found on Modern Sporting Rifles, and law-abiding citizens of those states need to follow their regulations. To keep from registering a rifle as an "Assault Weapon" in California, certain steps need to be followed and pieces need to be added or removed. To make matters worse, some of the recommended steps appear to be in conflict with each other.
Since there is some confusion, I will be ignoring any discussion of meanings and definitions to focus on presenting some of the popular ways of following the current law.

"Featureless" Rifles
Here is a PDF guide to one company's explanation of what a "featureless" rifle entails.

Thordsen Customs
This is what (currently) counts as a "featureless" rifle. There is no adjustable or folding stock, pistol grip, forward vertical grip or flash hider.

The picture is of a Thordsen Customs FRS-15 Gen III stock, a popular way to have a detachable magazine on a rifle.

Hera Arms
Another take on a "featureless stock" is from Hera Arms, a German manufacturer supplying aftermarket parts to military and civilian customers. 

To make this particular stock CA legal, the opening needs to be filled in, since it is technically a "thumb-hole stock' currently prohibited.

HERA CQR Buttstock

Both of the stocks shown are somewhat adjustable for length of pull by adding and subtracting spacers, available at extra cost.

What Is a "Featured Rifle"?
Believe it or not, it is defined as having all the parts most Modern Sporting Rifles have when leaving the factory: an adjustable length stock, pistol grip, forward grip, flash hider and a detachable magazine.

Here are two different ways to release a magazine and maintain all your rifle features:

AR Maglock
This is one of the more popular ways to keep your features, and AR Maglock devices are used by many companies selling rifles in California. This short video explains what it does much better than I can:

Juggernaut Tactical 
Here is a slightly different way to do the same thing from Juggernaut Tactical:

 From the Juggernaut website:

By changing out your rear take down pin and replacing it with our modified take down pin in combination with a new bolt catch now used as a magazine lock, you will have a completely California Compliant AR. You no longer have to use a Featureless AR solution. Our system will allow you to keep all of your current features, including a pistol grip, a forward grip, and adjustable butt stock. You can even reinstall a mil-spec magazine release. No need for a bullet button.
  • Ultra-fast magazine changes
  • Easy to install in 30 minutes or less
  • Featureless AR components no longer needed
  • No need to permanently modify your upper or lower
  • No need for bullet button
  • Available for any AR-15 or AR-10
  • 100% made in the U.S.A.
  • Finished in black or stainless steel
  • Patent pending
So there you have it: two different systems to make your Modern Sporting Rifle legal in CA.

For now.

The Takeaway

  • Isn't Capitalism wonderful? Here are four private companies making a lot of money selling parts to law-abiding citizens, who are obeying the law! 

The Recap
  • Nothing was purchased by me this week for this post. 
  • These companies sell their parts direct and/or through online parts retailers. Check around for the lowest prices. 

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Great Bowls of Oatmeal!

Me on the corner of Winslow AZ.
Neat little town.
Hooboy, it's been a while since I popped up here. Well, that's life, and despite this blog's tenacity in producing content, our lives tend to get the better of us from time to time and we find ourselves letting go of projects. Then there are the times when life is just a series of drudgery and WTFs, and we consume our stocks in whiskey and rum while needing a change. Which leads to the main point of this post: Rhi and Evie are riding again!

Yes, OkiRhio and I are once again camping for an entire month, this time in my adopted home state of Arizona. (If you just got a mental image of me rubbing my hands together going "OH BOY OH BOY OH BOY!" you're not too far off the mark.) And if you guys are really lucky, we might even do some videos. I'd actually really like to be able to, but with my husband's PI business taking off here in Arizona, he's got the monopoly on the video camera, so I am probably not going to have the camera by that time (unless people are feeling generous and Erin doesn't roll her eyes TOO hard at me shamelessly plugging the Jade Rose Zen etsy shop).

(Nah, that's fine. -- Erin)

One of my goals for the trip was dehydrating a bunch of food. Unfortunately, I don't have a dehydrator anymore, because the wiring burnt out on the one I had and I haven't been able to replace it. So, I've had to make some sacrifices in terms of type of food.

Then it occurred to me that I could make a case for "bugging out" with many of the more common foods that one can find in an American pantry or cupboard. So I pulled together a decent cross-section of such food stocks.

The tuna is from the StarKist brand, which in addition to the normal cans also comes in these convenient packs which depending on where you can find them range in 98 cents to a $1.15. The flavors are Ranch, Lemon Pepper and Hickory Smoked, as well as the standard non-seasoned tuna. The advantage of these packs is that they are foil, which means they are lighter than the tin cans and take up much less space in a pack.

And what camping trip is complete with the traditional Spam Offering? Yep, you are seeing Hickory Smoke, Bacon, Jalapeno and Black Pepper spam there.  (It's a toss up between the black pepper and hickory smoke as to which is my favorite.)

Unfortunately, I'm still a bit sensitive to gluten, so those three flours are going to be seeing some interesting recipe experiments come the trip. And that's instant potatoes in the big container. Speaking of potatoes...

.. why yes, those are five flavors of instant mashed potatoes there. I was looking over the potatoes and thought of "How about a little variety? They are only about a buck each, and they'll feed at least two people if not three." A healthy pantry filler gets some variety, and I don't know about you, but some of those would make for some great experimental shepherds' pie toppings.

Now if you look at the canned goods, you'll see a good cross-section of what my parents' pantry looked like while I was growing up. (We canned our own green beans and tomatoes, so you can ignore those.)  Note that those, plus beef and chicken bullion, are all meal components. I only have around three weeks before the camping trip, and homemade bullion recipes take time that I don't necessarily have.

You'll also note there are the cheap boxes of instant rice that have different flavors, and four bags of the Knorr meal sides bags. Those are fairly cheap (about a buck each) additions that you can find at any grocery store, and the mashed potato bags and Knorr side bags are extremely lightweight.

And yes, my dear cheapskates, there are indeed Ramen and Thai Rice noodles. The rice there on the bottom right are a bit more expensive - 88 cents per pack -but they are gluten-free and safe for most people who have grain problems to eat.

Not pictured is the couple of jars of triple citrus marmalade and canned ground turkey.

You can probably guess by now that there will be a lot of combination cooking experimentation that will come out of this trip, and this blog is going to be flooded with recipes for a while. (Seriously guys, we may need to make a cookbook!) It's all going to be based on playing around with common household foods and the cheap stuff.

We're also going to be keeping track of our water consumption for this month of camping. It occurred to me that this could potentially be an incredibly valuable point of data, because much of what we're eating needs water to prepare, and of course we'll be drinking. Plus there's sanitation and its water use to consider!

This time, I have the experience from my last trip to help me. It will be easy to to stack firewood on top of this spare tub at night to keep critters out. Plus, instead of a suitcase (that had to have been really well made to withstand being squished by a horse), the clothes are all going to be in a tub as well so that if I need to wash anything, I have a tub to wash them in.
I have a much bigger tent this time, and a cot too. The cot was a must as sleeping on the ground for that many nights in a row made my back and hips hurt, and we hadn't even started on the trip on yet.

Next time I'm around, I'll be showing you the tent and campsite set-up, along with some of the other additions to the food regime including dried goats milk and cows milk. Yes, fortunately for me my dairy allergy has let up! I can eat cow dairy again, which gives me more camping options.

And this is just my side of the preps. Rhi has her stuff she's doing, too.

FCC Disclaimer: BCP would like to point out that Evie is NOT sponsored by Winco foods, Maruchan, Knorr, Seakist or Spam. These products were all bought by her and her husband, and are being presented to you on this site because they are inexpensive options. Thank you for understanding.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Product Review: Tac-Force EMT Rescue Knife

I have been on a “Cheap Tools” kick lately. There are tools that I occasionally need to be able to give away or loan out without knowing if they will come back, but I still need them to do the job if something happens. I have two sisters who would love to be prepared, but have limited time, energy, and budget to research the appropriate tools, and can’t afford the costs of super premium gear.

The latest tool that caught my eye is a pocket knife/seat belt cutter/ glass breaker. I feel that the combination of these three items is a good “getting out of a car crash” set of tools, and there is no real advantage to purchasing them separately.

I like to carry the Benchmade Triage, but at over $150, it’s a little pricey. Given the people for whom I am purchasing this (my sisters, for example), I don’t expect it to need all of the nicer features that my Benchmade has, or to be as durable. It needs a blade lock, a seat belt cutter, and a glass breaker; beyond that, the rest is basically gravy.

I looked at my various options and decided to purchase the Tac-Force Spring Assist EMT Rescue Knife. As of this moment it costs less than $8 with free shipping for Amazon Prime members and has just under a thousand reviews with a 4.5 star average, so I figured it was worth a gamble.

  • Not as bulky as a lot of the cheap imports that I have toyed with.
  • Spring assist works well. I spent a couple of hours flipping it out and re-folding the blade, in order to see if it would break, and it seems to be fine.
  • Knife cuts well. Not as nice a cut as a high end blade, but just fine for opening boxes or cutting strapping in warehouse work. It also dulls faster than my nicer knives.
  • The price is about the same as a dedicated glass breaker, or a dedicated seat belt cutter, or a dedicated inexpensive pocket knife. For that price point, it seems quite good.
  • Test cuts on nylon strapping shows the seat belt cutter seems to work fine, even if it requires keeping tension on the strapping.
  • Glass breaker works well on scrap (non automotive) glass. I would love to know how well it works as an automotive glass breaker, so if anyone wants to test that and let me know, I would be interested.

  • If weight or bulk is an issue, there are better (if more expensive) options.
  • Ergonomics are not exactly perfect. This is radically better than nothing, but I would much rather have a better handle than this if I ever had to use it for an extended period.
  • The blade lock is a liner lock, and starts out really stiff. It is bad enough that some people with lower hand strength are not able to close it before it is “broken in”, so be aware of that. I recommend opening it and closing it 30-50 times before sticking it in your emergency kit, since that seems to make it easier to use.
  • The quality of build is only so-so. I would not use this as an EDC, because I would not expect it to last longer than a year, or possibly two, in my pocket with regular use.
  • The seat belt cutter is not the pocket knife blade, but is instead a dedicated blade in a covered housing. If you ever need to sharpen it, it appears that you have to disassemble the knife.

Overall: 4/5 stars (3 for quality, 1 for price)
If you are looking for an inexpensive, functional emergency tool, the Tac-Force EMT Rescue Knife works well. It has no frills, but it does the job. If you have very little budget, and want a reasonable tool, it should work fine.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Disaster Birthday Cakes

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I apologize for not writing a post last week; it was my birthday and I was busy having fun. I suppose I should have had a backup article stashed for use, but I seem to be out of those at the moment.

But this combination of forgetfulness and birthdays made me wonder, "What do you do if someone's birthday -- especially a child's -- happens after a disaster?" After all, morale is an important part of survival, and no one wants to feel like they've been robbed of their special day. But after a disaster, you may not have running water or electricity, let alone eggs and flour, so how would you bake a cake?

The answer is startlingly simple:

1) Find a mix that requires as few ingredients as possible. 
In the past there used to be "Just add water" mixes, but they don't seem to be around any more. The best you'll probably be able to do is find a mix that calls for eggs and oil.
You may need to substitute a brownie mix for cake, but unless you're one of those people who doesn't like chocolate or brownies, this isn't a problem.

2) Use a carbonated soft drink instead of eggs and oil.
No, really. Convert each egg required by the recipe to 1/4 cup of soda. Using soda makes the brownies more cakelike and less dense than regular brownies. 

I leave it to the foodies, who will likely have sufficient oil stashed in their pantry, to determine if it mixes well with the soda or not.

3) Cook over hot coals.
If you've got a dutch oven you're all set -- if you can bake bread in it, you can bake a cake in it -- but not everyone has one. If not, then you can portion out the mix into camp mugs (like the GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Bottle Cup) and cook it over a camp stove or on hot coals next to the campfire. 

4) Dress it up a bit.
Add some candles, and maybe a little frosting if it's sealed in a can, and you've just made a field-expedient birthday cake. Enjoy!

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

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