Thursday, January 23, 2020

Yes, it's Winter

It's snowing here, which means the temperature finally got warm enough that it could snow. Below-zero temperatures and six inches of snow make it hard to do much outside that isn't absolutely necessary, so most of my time has been spent indoors this month. What's a prepper to do when it's too early to garden, too late to harvest, and too cold to go outside?

Check Your Supplies
  • I've gone through some of my stored goods and cold-weather supplies. Rotating food supplies is an on-going process, not an event, but I found some jars and cans that had been lost in the shadows of the pantry. Soups and stews got a little extra added to them to make use of the odd ingredients that weren't useful alone.
  • I have oil lamps as back-up lighting, so I check the stored lamp oil this time of year. Several of the plastic bottles have gotten brittle after mumble years of storage in a dark corner of the basement, so the contents got transferred to metal storage containers like these.
  • We went shopping for cold-weather clothing a week ago, as this is the time of year when stores are getting ready for their spring clothing to arrive and the winter clothing is going on sale. Some of my thermal underwear is aging out and got replaced, and I'm still looking for a few more pair of wool socks. I dress in layers, so adding a few long-sleeved T-shirts and some new flannel shirts to the closet was a good investment.

Check Your Gear
  • I pulled out the sleeping bags and made sure they were still in good shape. With cold weather we get extremely low humidity, so now is a good time to air them out and know that they will be put away dry.
  • Extra blankets have been breeding in my closet for some time. I'm not even sure where some of these came from, but I have plenty stored. A quick check to make sure the vermin are leaving them alone and then running a few through the laundry before putting them back in storage. I like to leave a scented dryer sheet folded in with the blankets; it helps repel rodents and adds a pleasant fragrance.
  • My GHB got reorganized back in October before the cold set in, and switching to my spring/summer gear will happen around April. Cleaning and checking that warm-weather gear in its storage tote doesn't take much time or effort and gives me a chance to consider upgrades/changes.
  • The winter boots are ready for their mid-season water-proofing. I use Sno-Seal on my leather boots, and it does wear off eventually. Follow the instructions on the can for best result, but the basics are to apply it to clean, dry boots and then place them in a warm spot to allow it to soak in. Getting things clean and dry can take some time in this weather, which is why I have more than one pair of boots.

Check Your Weapons
  • The hunting seasons are mostly done around here, so it's time to put some of the toys back in storage. I'm stocked well enough that I can have dedicated defense guns and others for hunting. Putting the hunting guns in the back of the safe means giving them a thorough cleaning and making sure they're properly lubed and rust-proofed.
  • Some of the toys haven't been out of the safe for a while, so the cold nights are a good time to scrub the barrels clean of dust and give them a good inspection. The saying is that weapons only have two enemies, rust and politicians, and cleaning and oiling will take care of the rust.
  • Several of my rifles shoot corrosive ammo, so I make sure the barrels get cleaned even when I'm not using them. That surplus Russian ammo was cheap when I laid in a lifetime supply, but it requires extra cleaning. The corrosive salts are hard to get completely cleaned out, and running a brush/oiled patch down the bore doesn't take much time.
  • My wife thinks I'm just “playing with my toys”, but I'm doing preventative maintenance. Really, I am. This isn't just an excuse to f̵o̵n̵d̵l̵e̵ handle my collection of tools and toys.

Check on Your Tribe
  • Winter is a good time to gather with friends and talk. Sitting around a campfire in the fall is ideal, but sharing a meal and some time with fellow preppers is a good way to reconnect and offer/receive aid.
  • Winter can be hard on the older and less-well prepared members of your tribe, so take the time to check up on them and make sure they're healthy and doing well. Living up north, we get significantly less daylight during the winter and that can have an effect on people (Seasonal Affective Disorder), so watch for symptoms of increased depression.
  • Cabin fever is real and can be an issue. If you have tribe members that are susceptible, find ways to get them out of the house once in a while. Being cooped up with a cranky, hyperactive, and morose roommate is not good for your mental health, so find ways to get them some fresh air.
  • If your tribe is scattered like mine, stay in contact as best you can. I've been falling short in this area for a while and am trying to make changes.

Living in the frozen wastes of the northern tier of states isn't ideal, but it's something I've grown up doing. I'll trade the snow and cold for alligators and snakes any day, and I don't have to worry about insects for at least another two months. Spring is coming; we just have to get through the last of winter and it'll be planting season before we know it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Bagging It

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

As mentioned by our esteemed founder and Editrix Extraordinaire in her bottle bag blog post, we have been challenged to fill a bottle carrier with useful items. This means that I need to have a bottle carrier. Here is what I ordered.

Procase Water Bottle Pouch
Bottle for demonstration only. Not included with the bag.

From the Amazon ad:
  • Water bottle holder size: 11"×4"; Practical size, exclusively designed for storing your water bottle, water bladder, DJI Mavic Pro device and its batteries or other gears
  • Accessory bag size: 6"×1.6", zippered accessory pouch on the front for more stuff, like cell phone, keys, wallet or map; Built with quality two-way zippers, easy to open and close the pouch
  • Material: made from 900D Oxford fabric, durable and water-repellent; Keeping your water bottle and other supplies well protected and providing long-term durability in outdoor environment
  • Molle webbing throughout the pouch allows users to attach extra accessories and Molle gear to the bag firmly; Hook-and-loop for attaching personal tags according to one's liking
  • Comes with a comfortable detachable shoulder strap, easy to carry around; Or you could remove the strap easily and hang the pouch in your backpack with two buckles on the back
There is a slightly different version of this bottle carrier available, which uses draw-strings to close up (or at least wrap around) the bottle top. I chose the enclosed version, since this bag could get banged and bumped around, even when stored empty, let alone full of water. I'm excited to get started on figuring out what my contents might be. Stay tuned!

(Editrix's Note: David bought a more expensive version of the carrier. I don't know why. The one I linked is here.)

Christmas Close-outs
Your local Home Depot may or may not have Christmas leftovers around. If they do, look for this deal: Plano Large ABS Case with Handle in Orange

My picture. The Depot ad sucks!

This is a Plano Model #PLA1460HD and it appears to be a Home Depot special, since I can't find the exact item listed on Amazon. If you embiggen the picture you can see that this model has a foam liner pre-cut for picking out custom shapes to better protect your electronic bits. The last store I was in had three at a markdown price of $11.99, while normally you special order these for $13.99. I did not buy any, since I do not have smallish electronics to protect at the moment.

Recap and Takeaway


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, January 21, 2020

Making Your Own Yogurt

I love yogurt. It's been one of my favorite treats since I was a little kid, it's tasty and satisfying, and being loaded with protein makes it good for you. The best yogurts also promote the growth of good bacteria in your digestive tract.

Unfortunately, it's also quite expensive. Fortunately, yogurt making is a fairly straightforward process. As I mentioned last week, making yogurt is one of the neatest uses of an Instant Pot. It requires strong attention to detail and a bit of a time commitment, but the actual doing is fairly simple. Additionally, it is far less expensive than buying yogurt in the store: a gallon of whole milk costs $3 or less here, and 32 oz of live culture yogurt is about $4. Yes, you have to have yogurt to make yogurt! You need roughly 1 tablespoon of yogurt per quart of milk to provide the bacteria that makes yogurt work. After your first batch, you can keep recycling your own yogurt to start the next batch, but you have to buy your first round.

As I mentioned above, you're dealing with bacteria. Pay particular attention to temperatures and cleanliness, as messing up those will mess up your bacteria and kill your yogurt.

Clean the inner pot of your pressure cooker well before you start. Pour some boiling water into it and thoroughly swirl it around, then dump the water out.

Bring your milk to 180 degrees in the pot. If you have a yogurt button on yours, this is as easy as pushing that button and selecting the "boil" setting. If not, use the "Sear/Saute" setting and cook for about 30 minutes, until your milk is at the correct temperature.

Allow your milk to cool to approximately 108 degrees. This should take about an hour if your pot is sitting on the counter. However, you can dramatically accelerate this by putting the inner pot from your Instant Pot into an ice bath, which will get you to your desired temperature in about 15 minutes. Once your milk gets to temperature, skim off the "skin" on your milk.

Stir in your yogurt. 1 tablespoon per quart, whisking it in thoroughly. Make sure you're using plain yogurt with live cultures. You're looking for a note on the label that says Lactobacillus bulgaricus or Streptococcus thermophilus. Flavored or sweetened yogurt will not work for this!

Incubate your yogurt. Your bacterial brew needs to sit and simmer for 8 hours. Put the inner pot with your yogurt back into the cooker. If you have a yogurt button, simply press it and set it for 8 hours. If not, wrap your cooker in one or two large towels and set a timer for 8 hours.

After the 8 hours is up, portion your yogurt into containers and refrigerate it. It will store well for about 2 weeks. 

The final product will be thinner than commercial yogurt, more like a thick milkshake. I'm experimenting with ways to thicken it up, the first by adding dried milk before cooling to 108 degrees, the other by replacing some of the milk with heavy cream. Both methods add extra fat to thicken the final product. With a bit of fine tuning, you can achieve the consistency you want.

Making your own yogurt is cheaper and healthier, and fairly simple.


Monday, January 20, 2020

Portable Cat Litter Prep

Don’t forget your pets!

Here’s a little DIY to help make your getaway easier.

Godspeed to you all.

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Bottle Carrier Challenge

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
While in the process of repacking and slimming down my Get Home Bag, I had an idea for making a minimalist Bug Out Bag or GHB. To that end I have decided to issue a challenge to my fellow BCP authors in the style that Chaplain Tim did last with his $30 IFAK Challenge.

The rules for The Bottle Carrier Challenge are quite simple:
  1. If you do not own one already, acquire a bottle carrier similar to the above picture. The specifics are unimportant; all that matters is that it has a main compartment able to hold a 40oz / 1 liter bottle, a secondary "gadget" compartment of roughly 6"x4"x2", and have MOLLE straps on it. 
  2. Declare what kind of emergency kit this will be: Bug Out, Get Home, First Aid, whatever you like so long as it's related to prepping. The idea here is to demonstrate that you don't specifically need a backpack to make a good emergency kit. It's obviously not a BOB, but it's sure better than nothing, and it's obviously portable.
  3. Fill carrier with / attach to carrier prepping items for your stated emergency. You don't have to buy them new; you can use what you already have or borrow from a friend. But you must have the item for photographic purposes.
  4. Don't get cute by attaching an obviously larger and heavier container to the carrier, like a full-scale backpack. The carrier itself must be portable in its own right. 
  5. Take pictures of what goes where and, if necessary, explain your reasoning behind why you included certain items. 
I look forward to seeing what our esteemed authors do with this challenge! I will be posting my own results next week. 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Can Openers for Dummies

I'm officially old now:the other day I had to teach a 20-something worker how to use a can opener. This poor soul has been raised his entire life with pull tabs on canned goods or an electric can opener on the counter, and had no clue how to open a can of soup with the opener on my Boy Scout knife (which is older than he is). A manual can opener is not some miracle of modern science; they've been around since Napoleon Bonaparte funded the invention of canned foods.

Looking at the three can openers available in my EDC gear (redundancy is part of my life), I thought that I should maybe explain these curious anachronisms to the younger readers of this blog just to get the information out there. While there is no such thing as a stupid question, many people won't ask for information that they feel they should know or don't know that they don't know. The more experienced readers can either skip this article or read through it and add their two cents' worth in the comments.

Canned food is one of the overlooked miracles of “modern” life. With proper preparation and a good seal, canned food allows us to store food for a year or two and enjoy the nutrients and tastes long after the food is harvested. Most canned food is placed into a tin-lined steel can and a lid is roll-crimped onto the open end, sealing out air and contaminants. The roll-crimp leaves a defined “lip” around one or both ends of the can, depending on the construction of the can, and that “lip” is the key to using an opener to get to the goodies inside. Electric openers, and the manual ones that look like a pair of pliers, use a metal gear on the bottom of the lip for gripping and moving the can while a round cutting wheel pierces the top of the lid and shears through the metal of the lid as the can is rotated. There are variations that flip the cutting mechanism 90° and cut through the can just under the lid, but the method is the same.

Simple manual can openers come in various shapes and sizes, and they fall into two styles:

Convex Cutter

The cutting edge that pierces the lid faces away from the rest of the opener, and is usually beveled in two stages or angles. The one on the “bigfoot” pocket tool's upper arm has the break between the two stages about centered, while the one on the clip knife is roughly a third of the way along the cutting edge. Leaving the “sharp” edge exposed lets you use it for other purposes more easily, like scraping or scratching a surface.

I don't have a good close-up camera, so I can't show you the profiles of the cutting edges, but the “bigfoot” has a flat side and a beveled side similar to a chisel,while the one on the knife has a double-beveled edge like a common knife blade. The chisel style seems to be more efficient in my experience, and it leaves a cleaner cut in the metal. Convex cutters make small holes and take more time to open a can.

To use a convex opener:
  1. Hook the lip of the can with the open portion of the cutting head.
  2. Lift up on the rear part of the opener to pierce the lid.
  3. Release the pressure on the lid without removing the opener.
  4. Rotate the can a fraction of an inch towards you.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until the can is open.

Concave Cutter

This is the style that I prefer. The cutting edge is on the inside of the opener, which makes it less likely to damage or be damaged by other things. Most of the concave style openers have a rounded cutting edge rather than a stepped or staged edge. You can see the obvious curve to the cutting edge on the BSA knife.

The venerable P-38, or John Wayne can opener, is a convex style as the cutting edge is rounded and it pierces and cuts towards the operator. The curved cutting edge gives a smoother and longer cut in the lid with less effort.

To use a concave opener:
  1. Hook the lip of the can with the open portion of the cutting head.
  2. Lift up on the rear part of the opener to pierce the lid.
  3. Release the pressure on the lid without removing the opener.
  4. Rotate the can a fraction of an inch away from you.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until the can is open.
Using a Knife
Yes, I have opened cans with a fixed-blade knife before. It's inefficient and damages the point on the knife, but it works if you forgot to pack (or lost) a can opener that weighs a few grams. I've seen a lock-blade knife fail while trying to puncture a #10 can, leading to a lot of blood all over the food we wanted to eat, so I don't recommend using folding knives.

If you're setting up a Bug Out Location with lots of food stored in #10 cans, I'd suggest you look into getting a commercial-grademanual opener that mounts to a bench; it's much faster and easier than the pliers-type or smaller openers, and once you get used to one they are faster than most electric openers. For a Bug Out Bag, be sure to include a P-38 or the larger P-51 opener. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Re-Mixing Right

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

It pays to have friends who know more than I do, and frankly the list of those friends is pretty long. A reader of the blog asked me if I had looked at a well-known and easily-found powdered drink to use as a recovery aid. I hadn't and was told, "Look it up, you might be surprised!" I was.

What I missed in my post last week is pretty shocking.

Emergen-C Vitamin C 1000mg Powder 
Yes, I know, everyone in my circle has at one time used Emergen-C for cold relief or to attempt to keep from catching a cold. I have some in my GHB and usually have several in my lunch box. This is what is in my pack.

From the Amazon page:
  • Includes 60 single serving packets (0.32 oz; each) of Emergen-C Original Formula in Super Orange flavor
  • Each serving provides daily immune support* with more Vitamin C than 10 oranges(1)
  • Also contains B Vitamins, Electrolytes, and other Antioxidants like Zinc and Manganese
  • Flavored vitamin mix is made with natural fruit flavors for a delicious Super Orange taste
  • Vitamin C drink mix is a powder that dissolves quickly in water; it’s refreshing and caffeine free
  • Enjoy Emergen-C Original Formula Vitamin C supplement every day for routine wellness
  • Emergen-C Original Formula is also available in gummy and chewable forms
  • When buying, please check whether the product is "Ships from and sold by" just below the product price to make sure you are receiving this product from the manufacturer of Emergen-C to ensure proper product dating 

The actual contents of Emergen-C look like this:

When compared to the Dr. Price's that I reviewed in this post, things look different...

... different enough to make me rethink my possible choices in what to buy and keep in my stores. I'm not saying one product is bad and don't buy it, what I am saying is to keep looking at what is available, compare and then choose wisely.

I'm going to keep the Dr. Price's and use it up, but I am absolutely going to repurchase more Emergen-C very soon. 

Recap And Takeaway
  • Here's a prime example of my smarter, better-informed friends steering me to wiser choices. 
  • Something right in front of my face seems to fit my requirements, is found almost everywhere, and is reasonably priced.
  • Both Dr. Price's mix and Emergen-C mix are available from Amazon.
  • Nothing was purchased this week.
* * *

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.

The Fine Print

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