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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans, spam, spam, spam and spam.

Much maligned as a food for the poor, the ubiquitous nature of Spam has earned it a place in a prepper's pantry. I know that at least one of you out there is gagging at the thought of eating “mystery meat” out of a can, but I'm betting that you'd choke it down if you got hungry enough. Some of us were forced to eat things that we didn't like when we were children, and we may have sworn that once we were grown up we'd never eat “that stuff” again, but I think you should give Spam another look.

Made of spiced pork and ham, with various seasonings and a dose of sodium nitrite added as preservative, Spam has been around since 1937. Production and export during WW2 (where it was a field ration) spread the canned meat product all over the world and provided a source of protein for Allied forces and the civilian populations they lived around.

Spam is a simple product. Pork shoulder, ham, salt, water, potato starch (as a binder), sugar, and sodium nitrite are all that's in the basic version today; variants on the market today add bacon, hickory smoke flavoring, Tabasco sauce, jalapeno peppers, garlic, or some other flavoring for a change of pace. 

Produced in plants in in Minnesota and Nebraska, Spam is “retort” canned, meaning that it is cooked in the same can into which it is vacuum sealed. This extends its shelf life beyond that of food which is first cooked and then sealed in a can by eliminating exposure to air and microbes after cooking. Being retort canned makes it “shelf stable”, which means that it doesn't require refrigeration until after it is opened. The cans I have on my pantry shelf have a “best by” date of three years from when I purchased them, which is close to the five year shelf life of most “survival” meals on the market. I'd trust that Spam to be fit to eat beyond those three years, depending on storage conditions -- my pantry is in the basement, so it stays cool and dry with a fairly steady temperature,  all good things for extending the shelf life of stored foods.

Spam comes in standard 12 ounce (oz) cans, and since the “recommended” serving of meat for most meals is 4 oz, each can contains three servings. 
  • One serving provides 310 Calories, about 240 of them from fat (slow energy, useful in cold climates);
  • about 1400 mg of Sodium (half of your RDA);
  • and a good portion of your daily needs for protein and zinc. (It's meat.)
Use some common sense and eat other things as well to balance out your diet, and if you're on a sodium-restricted diet, watch the salt content. For those of us with no natural local source of salt, products like this provide a source if things go wrong for long enough to disrupt normal supply lines.

Spam is easy to find, being sold around the world with some regional variations. Here in the USA it is probably easiest and cheapest to buy it at a local grocery store or Walmart. I normally include Amazon links to products, but when Walmart sells it on their website for $2.50 a can with free shipping and Amazon can't match that unless you're a Prime member, I'll stick to Walmart. It pays to shop around and look for better prices -- some of the prices on Amazon for the flavored kinds were around $7.00 a can, when I can get them at a small-town grocery store for less than $4.00.

As easy as it is to find, Spam is also easy to use. Eat it hot or cold, baked, fried, boiled, broiled, or grilled. There is no shortage of recipes for Spam, with some of the oddest ones coming out of the islands of the Pacific ocean where it was introduced during WW2 and is now a staple or a delicacy depending on the culture.

Spam isn't prime rib, but it will last a lot longer on your shelf. Given the versatility and ease of access, I believe a few cans of Spam should be on everyone's pantry shelf. If nothing else, it's something to threaten the kids with.

P.S.: For those readers who choose to not eat pork products for dietary or religious reasons, there are various forms of canned beef and chicken available, but since they aren't as widely sold the prices are higher -- expect to pay at least twice as much per oz as you would for Spam. Common producers are Yoder's, Lehman's, and Keystone. Two of the three cater to the Amish communities around Ohio and have for many years.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Prudent Prepping: Junk In The Trunk

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

Well, 2017 is looking to be an eventful, 'interesting' (in the Chinese proverb/curse meaning) year. I have a new-to-me car that is now my primary vehicle: a 2012 Honda Accord.

The Trunk in Question
Trunk space in my Honda

All of my gear prior to this had to fit under the seat of my Nissan Frontier or in a very plain backpack that I could leave on the floor, hoping it would look too boring to warrant breaking in to find out if it held anything of value.

(And by value I mean 'flea market or pawn shop' value, not how much I might need the contents in an emergency.)

Now that I have a car with a trunk, I can keep my gear there where it's out of sight -- but that means I have to keep it organized. It's been years since I've needed to find trunk organizers, bins or ways to keep the containers from shifting and sliding. I have suggestions from the BCP team for Rubbermaid-type boxes for smaller items (which I need), but there is still nothing there to keep things from moving around. I've seen cargo nets in the trunks of other Hondas and Acuras, so I know that type of thing is available, just not how to adapt it (yet) to the trunk of my slightly older model.

Now I get to work up a list of things that I need to carry, along with a variable list of  wants that will more than likely be stored in separate containers. My GHB, lunch box and daily tools fit easily in the space behind the wheel well and the back edge of the trunk, so carrying everything that I think is needed should still leave plenty of room for normal trunk duties.

Here is another of my projects that will be slowly done, since my budget is now tighter than before. I plan on this being a priority for the next few weeks, so feedback and product suggestions will be appreciated!

The Takeaway
  • Organizing daily carry gear in your vehicle is as important as keeping it organized in your various bags.
The Recap 
  • I can now carry things discretely and securely that previously were too large, bulky or valuable to take with me without a trunk!
  • Nothing was purchased this past week, other than a 2012 Honda Accord to replace my beloved 2002 Nissan Frontier Long Bed Crew Cab.

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 17, 2017

Alternative Navigation

We've established that a map and compass are necessary for navigation, providing vital information about where you are, where you want to be, and what is between you and that goal. Unfortunately, sometimes these vital tools fail: maps can become wet or torn or otherwise become unusable; compasses can break or be lost. Losing your tools makes things far more difficult, but it isn't the end of the world.

If you find yourself without a map in hilly or mountainous territory, "downhill and downriver" is a good rule of thumb --  work downhill until you find the water, then follow the water downstream to the people. In flatter, more arid territory, look for stands of trees or bushes that mark watering holes and streams, and follow the water from there.

If you lose your compass, there are ways to find approximate directions without it. A rough East-West bearing can be found early and late in the day simply by checking the sun. The closer you are to the equator, the more accurate this bearing will be, but even at my 41 degrees north latitude, it's close enough to work.

Another method involves standing a stick at least 12" long vertically into the ground. Mark the tip of the shadow cast by this stick, wait about 15 minutes, and then mark the new point of the shadow tip. A line drawn between both marks will be a quite accurate East/West indicator. The first mark is the western end of the line, the second mark shows east.

At night, the stars are a time-tested method of navigation. In the Northern Hemisphere, Polaris (the "north star") is the star of choice. Learn to locate it, and you can draw bearings without the sun at all.

Tools are a wonderful thing. Being without them is tough, but with this knowledge and some practice, you'll have no excuse for being lost.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #126 - Panthers, Po-Po, and the Pew-Pew Life

It's the pew-pew life for us!
Guns are civil rights for us!
Steada resting, we fight back!
Nearly all our guns are black!
It's the pew-pew life!
  • Beth is going to the SHOT Show. Since she started attending in 2000, some things have changed... and some have not.
  • We all love a story with a happy ending, and this one will not disappoint you. But what sort of person ties up a woman in her own bedroom during a home invasion? Sean tells you what he's found.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin read and explain the newly introduced National Concealed Carry Reciprocity bill.
  • What are the dark, secret parts of Gun Control? Tiffany gets her Black Panther Party on and tells us what she's found.
  • Does the idea of flushing the toilet during an emergency by pouring good clean drinking water into it feel like sacrificing your baby? Erin tells us how the Blue-Grey-Black water cycle can help.
  • There's a new "threat" to our gun rights. Are they dangerous, or just a paper tiger? Weer'd takes a recent NPR interview with their spokesman and puts it all in context.
  • And our plug of the week is for "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" on Netflix. It's got guns, action, and adventure for the guys, and costumes, relationships, and not a small amount of wish fulfillment for the ladies. It's a date night TV show for everyone.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunesStitcher Radio, and now on Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
the Blue - Gray - Black Water Cycle
Last week, Sean and I talked about the preparations he’d made for the Snowpocalypse that was slated to hit North Carolina, and later on Facebook he posted a picture of his bathtub full of water jugs.  He captioned it it “This is about 40 gallons, or three flushes of the toilet” and then in the comments explained “During the power outage from the hurricane I had to pour water into the toilet to make it flush the poo. The Wife insisted. Each flush was 2.5 gallons. It was like sacrificing a baby watching all that water I'd driven to Walmart to get going down the toilet.”

And I agree, using 2 and a half gallons of fresh drinking water to flush the toilet is wasteful. So let’s talk about making the most out of our drinking water by utilizing the Blue - Gray - Black Water Cycle.
  • Blue water -- also sometimes called white water, but that makes me think of rapids -- is water fit for human consumption. The technical term for this is “potable”, and it’s what you drink and cook with and bathe in and usually what you wash your clothes in. 
  • Gray water is what goes down the drain. It’s not drinkable, because it’s soiled with things like dirt, soap, bits of food, hair, shampoo, skin cells, and so forth, but it’s not harmful to a human being. You could bathe in gray water without ill effects. 
  • Black water is what leaves your toilet, and it’s decidedly NOT safe to be exposed to, because it’s full of pathogens that are just waiting to infect you if they get past your skin. 
So the general thought behind this cycle is that you can use water more than once, going from levels of highest potability to lowest, if you are in a situation like Sean where your water resources are limited.

Here’s an example of how that would work in a limited-water emergency:
  1. When preparing food or washing yourself or your clothes, do not pour the water down the sink. Instead, catch it in a container of some kind. The blue water has become gray. 
    • If you REALLY want to ration water, wash your clothes and your dirty dishes in the gray water. I would caution you that the grease and other food elements might not be the best for your clothes, but it’s possible. Washing dishes and utensils in gray water isn’t as bad, since metals and ceramic aren’t going to absorb odors, but make sure that 1) you use lots of soap and 2) you rinse them with blue water before putting them away for reuse.
    • Depending on the soap and other elements in the gray water, you might be able to use it for watering plants. In fact, graywater irrigation is a rabbit hole that is outside the scope of this article, so I’m going to suggest that anyone who is interested should check out the article titled “How Gray Water Reclamation Works” in the show notes. 
    • For our example here, though, we’re just going to assume that you aren’t going to do that. Instead, you save that graywater for flushing the toilet.
  2. Now it must said that when it comes to conserving water, the “If it’s yellow, let it mellow” rule must be in effect. Otherwise, you’re going to be flushing a lot more often, which is exactly what we want to avoid.
  3. When it comes time to “flush it down, because it’s brown”, you take your bucket or tub or whatever container of gray water you have and you pour about a gallon of it, quickly, from about two feet. You don’t want it so high that you get splashed, but you want it high enough that the water gets a gravity assist.
  4. Past a certain point, the pressure of water in the bowl will be greater than the air pressure in the pipes beyond, and the force will induce a flush. There’s a YouTube video in the show notes if you need a demonstration.
  5. After you pour the gray water into the toilet, it becomes black water -- and because you’ve caused it to flush, that black water is no longer your concern.
Now before you decide to start saving your gray water for flushing, you need to know that gray water becomes black water within about 24 hours due to the bacteria in the water eating the food and giving off their own waste. So don’t let it become a health hazard and flush it away.

But with that in mind, Sean and everyone else can be a lot happier if the water goes out during a winter storm, because 1 gallon of gray water is a lot less heartwrenching to flush than 2.5 gallons of blue water.

And if you’d like to read more about getting by on limited water, check out the linked article of the same name on Blue Collar prepping, linked in the show notes.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Book Review: The Little House Cookbook

Hey all, it's Evie and I'm recovering from a cold -- a nasty little strain that waylaid both myself and my fiancé. DR, being the lovely chap that he is, decided to surprise me with this book after it was clear that I had indeed caught the cold from him. I've had it on my wishlist a for a long time now, and I ended up reading it cover to cover in less than a day.

I grew up with the Little House on the Prairie book series, so having the cookbook in my hands was a huge treat because I was relieving parts of my childhood. If you're a fan of the series like I am, there are bits and pieces of information in this book that will leave you giggling and having "OH!" moments, and the two alternate pretty regularly. Many of the sketches from the original series appear in this book.
Memories aside, though, this is a great cookbook in of itself. There are recipes in here from the late 1800s that were made during sparse times, and these recipes can be tailored easily for preppers and our pantries.

However, some of the recipes you will most likely never try. Case in point: blackbird pie. None of the North American corvid family may be hunted freely and without season, so you'd likely need to hunt starlings instead, and it takes 12 of them to make this pie. Now while I might be stubborn enough to try that endeavor (remember the duck plucking incident?), most folks are not going to be that hungry, let alone that bored.

Other recipes include homemade sausage, baked spareribs, roasted pig and a recipe for oxtails soup. There are also tips and recipes for fruit drying, fruit jams and jellies, cakes, and even a recipe for ginger water.

So whether you decide to get this cookbook for the sake of a series you grew up reading, are a fan of cookbooks from an era when food had to go further, or just want a good base for starting to build your own recipes, I highly recommend The Little House Cookbook ($15.32 with Prime shipping) -- as well as the rest of the Little House on the Prairie series!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Lee Loader Kit

We have mentioned reloading ammunition in a few posts, and one of the comments we got back was about the Lee Loader series of reloading kits. I started reloading with a single stage press, and still do most of my reloading on that press, but I have been collecting Lee Loader kits for various calibers for “just in case”. I find them on tables at gun shows in some odd calibers, usually for less than they cost new, and they make good gifts for friends who shoot odd guns that are harder to find ammunition for.

What's Inside
The Lee Loader is a single-caliber kit that gives you all of the tools (except a plastic mallet or piece of hardwood) you will need to reload cartridges of that caliber. The Lee Precision company used to make these kits in 110 calibers, but have narrowed their current listings down to the 15 most common (6 pistol, 9 rifle) calibers. Being made of steel, the old kits are still out there and are still usable if you can find them. Lee Precision claims you can load up to 50 rounds in an hour with such a kit. That will take some practice -- I'd say 20 rounds per hour is more realistic for a beginner or someone unfamiliar with the kit and its operation. However, it's fast enough for someone who is reloading after hunting.

One downside to using the Lee Loader is that it does not full-length size the fired brass. This means that it doesn't squeeze the brass back down to standard factory size, so it will be “formed” to the chamber of the firearm that it came out of. The brass will be “neck sized”, meaning the part that holds the bullet will be forced back to the proper size, which is great for accuracy when used in a single firearm. Many precision shooters use specific lots of brass assigned to a specific rifle and they only neck size it when they load. Since the body of the cartridge is formed to the chamber of that rifle, it doesn't have to stretch out every time it is fired and that extends the life of the brass. Lee Precision does not recommend using the Lee Loader kits for semi-auto, pump, or lever-action rifles, which limits you to bolt-action and break-action rifles. Neck-sizing can mean using a bit more force to get the cartridge into the chamber, which you probably won't notice in a bolt-action but might cause a semi-auto to jam.

Here's one of my Lee Loader kits. This one is for the .303 British cartridge, which is what I feed my Lee-Enfield rifle. Since I only have the one rifle in this caliber and ammunition for it is not common in my area, the Lee Loader is a good choice. 

This is an old kit from the 1970s or early 80s, and came in a cardboard box with a styrofoam liner; I think I paid $10 for mine at a gun show back in the day. Newer kits come in a red plastic box with formed holders for the various parts. They are still making the kits in .303 British, and they sell on Amazon for about $30. The older kits in discontinued calibers may be worth a bit more, if you can find them on eBay or at a gun show, but they are the same quality as the new ones.

Reloading Procedure
The rifle kit is made up of six pieces and the instructions are quite well-presented. I doubt any of you would have a problem opening the box and being able to reload a box of ammunition without incident, but here is a run-down of the process.

Before First Use
Before you can start loading, you need to set the bullet-seating depth based upon the total length of a factory cartridge. If you are working to create a load specifically for accuracy in your rifle, you may want to adjust the bullet depth later.
  1. Screw the lock nut and stop collar all the way down.
  2. Place a factory cartridge on the depriming chamber.
  3. Place the die over the cartridge.
  4. Put the bullet seater into the die and adjust the stop collar up until it touches the seater, then tighten then lock collar.
Case Prep
  1. Check to make sure the case will fit into the chamber of your rifle.
  2. Clean the brass if needed -- dirt and grit will damage a reloading die.
  3. Inspect the case for cracks and splits, especially on the neck. Discard any brass that is split or cracked, as it's not safe to use any more.
  4. Check the primer holes inside the cartridge. If there is one hole in the center of the base, it is Boxer primed and is reloadable. If you see two holes it is Berdan primed and is not reloadable with this equipment. Berdan priming is common in European and Asian ammunition, whereas Boxer priming is the standard in the USA.
  5. Check your case length against a new one or with a guage to make sure it isn't too long. After being fired a few times, brass tends to “grow” and may need to be trimmed back to a the right length. If it gets too long the brass may not release the bullet when it is fired, causing excessive pressure and damage to the gun and/or you.
  6. Using a pocket knife or suitable tool, chamfer the inside of the neck slightly to ease the bullet into the brass. This only has to be done before the first loading and after trimming.
Depriming the Brass
  1. Place the cartridge in the depriming chamber (the small black cylinder). It will only fit in one way, so don't worry about getting it backwards.
  2. Place the depriming tool in the case. You can feel the tip of the tool drop into the primer hole.
  3. Using a rubber mallet, tap the depriming tool until you feel the old primer fall out.
  4. Move on to the next case. Depriming them in a batch speeds up the process.
Size the Neck of the Case
  • Place the brass neck down in the sizing die and tap it with a mallet until the head is flush with the base.
Prime the Case
  1. Place a primer, open end up, in the priming chamber. (That's the metallic cylinder with the spring-loaded face.)
  2. Place the die, with the brass still in it, over the priming chamber.
  3. Place the priming tool into the neck of the cartridge and gently tap the end a few times to seat the primer.
  4. Move the die to the depriming chamber and tap the priming tool lightly to knock it loose from the die. Leave it there while going on to the next steps.
Add Powder
Each kit comes with a red powder scoop that is sized for a small selection of common powders. Don't substitute powders without a way to measure them. Powder selection and measurement is one of the hardest and most important safety-important parts of reloading!
  1. To use the scoop, drag it through the powder and give it one and only one shake to the side to level off the powder.
  2. Pour the powder into the open end of the die.
Seat the Bullet
  1. Drop the bullet, base-down, into the die.
  2. Place the bullet-seating stem into the die.
  3. Tap the bullet seater until it touches the die.
Crimp the Bullet
If you're using a rifle with a tubular magazine and have used bullets with a crimping groove (known as a cannelure) or lead bullets, there is a way to crimp the bullets into the brass.
  1. Turn the loaded cartridge upside down and insert the bullet end into the of the die.
  2. Gently tap the base of the bullet with the plastic mallet or piece of wood until you get the amount of crimp you want.

If you're looking for a way to keep a hunting rifle supplied on a limited budget, a Lee Loader may be a route to explore. As an example:
  • My .303 British takes 38.5gr of IMR 4320 powder, something I have on the shelf since it is suitable for several rifle calibers. 
  • There are 7000 gr in a pound, so I can get about 180 rounds (9 boxes) reloaded from a single container. 
  • Powder is selling for about $25 a pound, so that's about $0.14 worth of powder for each round. 
  • Primers are going for about $4 per hundred or $0.04 per round.
  • Bullets are variable, depending on weight and design but average around $0.14 apiece. 
Add this all up ,and you can reload a fairly odd-ball caliber for $0.32 a round, or $6.40 a box. Try finding factory ammunition at that price --  or at any price, once TSHTF.

A pound of powder, a couple flats of primers, two boxes of bullets, a Lee Loader kit, a plastic mallet, and a few boxes worth of brass will fit comfortably in a small ammo can or a medium Rubbermaid box. Not a bad way to store a year or two's worth of hunting ammo!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Prudent Prepping: 2016 in Review

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

The past year went well for me, prepping-wise. I filled many needed items, shifted some supplies into and out of various bags and bought new things.

In no particular order, here are some of the highs and lows of the year.

The Highs
  • I replaced an old water reservoir with a nice new Camelbak that's adaptable to my day pack or GHB! 
  • I am no longer Ahab searching for his impossible find: I finally have a tent, purchased from a friend! 
  • For sleeping in my tent, I found a new air mattress to replace my old, dead pad. 
  • I tested an Esbit stove, one of the more popular compact stoves on the market, with a very nice Sea to Summit cook pot that was a birthday gift. 
  • I followed a recommendation to try a different instant coffee in my GHB which also turned into a great addition to my lunch box.
  • The EDC bag I use updated its contents with very minor changes. 
  • Following the damage to a flashlight, battery storage boxes were ordered. 
  • The first of several First Aid kits were reviewed by me, all of them perfect for my needs. 
  • And due to the outstanding PR skills of our talented Editrix here at Blue Collar Prepping, I was able to do my very first Test and Evaluation of a product!

The Lows
Well, there is only one real gear low point but several slightly disappointing things:
  • An expensive (to me) flashlight was ruined because of neglect. 
The things that are minor irritants are:
  • Needing to find real hiking boots. I did not go on any extended hikes, so there wasn't a rush to buy them in 2016. 
  • Buying food designed for long term storage, and in a more compact form, just wasn't in my budget. 

The Takeaway
  • Keep looking at your gear. I seem to be able to tweak and change things for the better on my budget a bit at a time, and so should you. 
The Recap
  • I really have the best friends, co-bloggers and editor, all of whom tolerate me and my various quirks. I am truly blessed. 

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

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

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