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Friday, May 26, 2017

Fixing Dinnerware Forgetfulness

Being forgetful (and poor) has lead me to create some unique solutions sometimes. Now I can't verify how crafty this solution made me, and I will it's success at a later date, but it seemed worth sharing.

Speaking of sharing, I picked up a great little tool (so far) for $5. For its performance so far, I'd definitely call it frugal!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Emergency Rations Test #2: ER Bars

Test #2 is done! I tested these the same way I am testing all of the various emergency rations, by using them to replace a meal or two during my spring hectic period at work. I'm out in a field or driving a truck for 12-14 hours a day (when it's not raining) and have to pack a lunch anyway, so this is an easy test for me. I'm also usually tired in the mornings and don't grab a proper breakfast, so having something that doesn't require cooking that is also filling and nutritious makes my life a bit simpler.

This is the ER Bar, from Quake Kare in St. Louis, MO. At $6.14 per package, this one comes to $2.05/day, which is cheaper than coffee and a donut from most shops, and these are better for you nutritionally. I snapped a picture of an unopened package next to an open and half-eaten one, with one portion turned on edge to give some sense of the thickness.

Photo my own work

The ER Bars come vacuum-sealed inside a resealable pouch, and it is a single block that is scored so you can break it into six pieces. (If you look at the package on the left, you can see the scoring because of the vacuum seal.) Each piece or portion will provide around 400 Calories* and the maker suggests eating two portions ($1.03 each) per day to make the bar stretch for 3 days. Personally, I'd rather carry an extra bar or two and eat three times a day for 1200 Calories; that's closer to a "normal" diet and would provide the extra energy that I will need. Remember, I live in the northern half of the USA, and it takes extra energy just to stay warm about half of each year up here.
*There is a reason that I capitalize the "C". Standard physics/chemistry notation uses a lower-case "c" to denote a calorie (the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius) and a upper-case "C" to denote a kilocalorie, 1000 calories. The kilocalorie is a more convenient unit to work with when dealing with anything outside of a lab.

  • The ration bar is compressed and slightly dry. The scoring to mark individual portions is only on one side of the bar, so getting it to break cleanly at the line was a challenge. There was a slight tendency for the edges to crumble or flake off, but nothing severe.
  • Even though the portions were slightly dry, they were not thirst-provoking. I normally have to wash down most food with some sort of beverage, but these were OK to eat by themselves. The texture was finely grained, and nothing stuck to my teeth or coated my mouth or throat.
  • The portions may appear small, but they were filling enough to ease any hunger pangs I may have suffered. This is good for morale, since nobody is happy when they're hungry. It was quite easy to survive until the next meal, even if I didn't eat a real meal until evening.
  • The flavor is sweet, but not strong enough for me to identify as any particular fruit or spice. (I will admit that my taste buds are less than perfect; 35 years of smoking tobacco tends to kill them off.) "Pleasant and agreeable" is the best way I can describe the taste.
  • The ingredients are fairly simple; wheat flour, palm oil, sugar, corn syrup (sugar), soy flour, cornstarch, flavoring, dextrose (another sugar), colors, preservatives, and vitamins. Note the wheat and soy content if you have food allergies! There are no animal fats, coconut, or nuts to set off sensitive stomachs, though.
  • Coast Guard approved, so it has a 5-year shelf-life and can handle temperature extremes from -22 to 149 °F. This makes it a good candidate for storage in a car or cache.
  • The resealable pouch works very well. It was nice being able to reseal the leftovers and not have to worry about dust and other things getting on my food. Once the ration bar is gone, the pouch would be handy for storing other things that I might want to keep dry (tinder, socks, etc.) and it was one of the sturdier packages of the various brands I'm testing.
  • I bought a pack of four of this brand, and all four arrived in good condition with the vacuum seals still intact. "Manufactured on" dates were within the last six months, so they still had most of  their five-year shelf-life left.
I would be content to carry this brand of emergency rations in a get-home or bug-out bag. They meet my minimum requirements of tasting good, alleviating hunger, not costing much, and being fit to store anywhere. I will probably add one of the left-over packs to my truck bag and another will be cached in my wife's car.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Prudent Prepping: the 80% Arms AR-15 Lower and Easy Jig

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

My son's birthday was a couple months ago, and since I have never been to his home, I took off right after work last Friday for a visit. He had received his present well before my arrival, but waited for me to help him with finishing it. But what, exactly, was it?

The 80% Arms AR-15 Lower and Easy Jig
From the Easy Jig webpage:
The universal fit Easy Jig® is a patented router jig that makes machining your 80% lower easier, faster, and safer by utilizing a router instead of a drill press. The Easy Jig allows you to complete an 80% lower in about 1/3 the time it takes to complete a lower on an old style drill press jig. This jig is easy enough for a caveman to use. It definitely lives up to its name. You also save money on tools. You do not need to own a drill press, mill, or any measuring tools to use the Easy Jig. The Easy Jig is built like a tank (weighs over 6 lbs) and can be reused for dozens of lowers. For those planning to use their jig for 20+ lowers, we offer optional hardened steel drill bushings in both side walls.
 Lower and parts kit
The reviews of the included jig were what pointed me to this combination, since lowers of about the same price (with minor exceptions) are very similar in quality. The website is informative with easy-to-understand descriptions and directions. There is a YouTube video that is a very good complement to the instruction sheet included with the jig.

I strongly recommend watching the video while reading the manual to get a real understanding of the whole process. The instructions state that a lower can be completed in an hour, but in my son's experience, that is very optimistic. That being said, with some practice setting everything up and being familiar with how to perform all the steps without referring to the instructions repeatedly, one hour might be possible. Maybe. After running many, many lowers.

It took a bit over 4 hours, not including trips to Lowe's and Home Depot for parts not necessarily needed to complete the job but things which made the job easier, like:
  • A vise. A large one is not necessary but one is absolutely needed, along with bolts to mount it to the work area. 
  • Light weight oil or WD-40 to lube the drill bits and end mill. 
  • Brake cleaner, carburetor cleaner or acetone (or another fast drying solvent) to remove the oily mess after you finish. 
  • A small hex key set for installing the screws. 
  • Safety glasses and ear protection, especially when using the router. No one needs to collect 25,000 rpm aluminum pieces with their eyes or listen to the high pitched whine of the working router. 
  • A shop vacuum to pick up all the tiny aluminum particles. Buy a vacuum, there will be aluminum dust everywhere. 

Assembled jig with 80% lower

Extra steps were taken to protect the exposed surfaces of the lower from flying particles and accidental bashes from drill bits or dropped wrenches.

Vise mounted to the bench
The small vise my son bought did not have reversible jaws, so extra care was needed when clamping the jig down. When drilling several of the holes through the side plates, it is possible to have part of the lower accidentally in contact with the rough surface of the jaws. This is a Bad Thing, as the aluminum of the lower is softer than the steel of the vise jaws, and this can lead to scarring (or worse) of the lower.

Padding the jaws with cardboard seemed to keep scarring to a minimum.

Starting to drill

One of the reasons that assembly took so much extra time was double and triple checking all the measurements involved.

The directions were very easy to follow and well written.

Oily instruction sheet

Because we referred to the instructions so often, we didn't think to keep them off the actual work bench. Drilling and routing the lower sprayed oil everywhere.

Drilling the trigger pocket
All of the parts needed to finish the lower are in the kit. However, depending upon your lower, you may need to replace the large (3/8") drill bit before you finish the project*. The other drill bits are only used for two holes each, and those holes are only through the thin side plates, while the large bit makes ten holes over 1" deep. There should be no problem using the smaller bits for multiple jobs, in my opinion.

* We had to buy a replacement drill bit because my son was pressing so hard with the old bit that the jig was moving in the vise, causing some minor damage. It wasn't enough to cause problems with drilling accurate holes, just some scarring on the jig face. Fortunately, the new bit made the process faster and easier.

The Takeaway
  • Doing the research to find a reputable company is key. 
  • Having everything needed to finish the job included and clearly marked was fantastic. 
  • If we made a mistake and ruined the lower, 80% Arms will sell you a replacement for 50% off the regular price! 
  • Well designed parts with easy-to-follow directions makes this something I can recommend to friends 

The Recap
  • One 80% Arms AR-15 lower and Easy Jig: As a gift for my son, priceless; for everyone else, $248 (free shipping on orders over $200).
  • These items were purchased by me at the prices listed on the website. 
  • Nothing else was purchased or removed from my gear. 

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, May 23, 2017

Avoiding Avocado Hand

Lately there has been an epidemic of Avocado Hand. You don't want to contract it, so today I'll show you how to avoid this potentially crippling condition.


Monday, May 22, 2017

The Disneyland and Hermit Crab States of Mind

& is used with permission.
This article was brought to my attention courtesy of Firehand. I meant to post it Monday, but I had a crippling headache all afternoon and I forgot, so I'm posting it now and back-dating it.

I've spoken about the Vacation State of Mind and the "Safetyland" mindset on the GunBlog VarietyCast, but this article is an excellent follow-up to both of them.

Read it at No Nonsense Self-Defense.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #144 - The Gross

"A dozen, a gross, and a score,
Plus three times the square root of four
Divided by seven
Plus five times eleven
Is nine squared and not a bit more."

-- Leigh Mercer, wordplay master and recreational mathematician (1948)

  • Do you get Holster Funk? Beth tells you how to avoid it while carrying in the hot, humid South.
  • Sell stolen guns and hold people at gunpoint? Momma might have something to say about that. Who got shot? Sean takes a closer look.
  • Barron is on assignment this week.
  • They say “Choose your friends well, for your enemies will choose you.” Miguel shines a bright light on those who have chosen us, and what he sees will shock you.
  • In the Main Topic we welcome Special Guest Gail Pepin of the Massad Ayoob Group and the Pro Arms Podcast.
  • How do you answer when people ask you "Just how many guns do you really need?" Two-Gun Tiffany gives us her answer.
  • After last week's fungal infection segment, Erin follows up with some creams and ointments that every prepper should have.
  • A State legislator opens a stand to sell lemonade, cookies... and an AK-47, because he objects to citizens selling their property without government permission. Weer'd points and laughs.
  • And our plug of the week is for Carolina Ceramic Coatings.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and 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:

Useful Creams and Ointments
Last week’s segment about athlete’s foot was unexpectedly popular! I received many replies about it, specifically in terms of home remedies. More than one listener reported that urinating on their feet in the shower cured their athlete’s foot. Other popular suggestions were soaking the feet in vinegar, or a 50/50 solution of tea tree oil and water, or my personal favorite because it didn’t require expensive components, "one tablespoon bleach to a half gallon of warm water for 15 minutes. Then rubbing the feet with olive oil after drying." I’m going to have to try that last one.

Also, I want to give a shout-out to listener Steven Bonaparte, who asked me if I meant Gold Bond medicated body powder, or if there was a special non-medicated version I was talking about. The answer of course is “I screwed up; I meant medicated. There is however an extra-strength version if you want that -- although not in handy travel size -- but there is no non-medicated version. Sorry! I derped!”

So on to today’s topic. I’ve already talked about how necessary it is to have body powder and antifungal cream in a bug out or get home bag, but there are other creams and ointments and deserve a place in your kit. Since we’re already talking about itchy feet, the logical place to begin is with an anti-itch cream. I like Cortisone-10 Maximum Strength, because it tames the itch of my athlete’s foot when the antifungal isn’t enough, but any 1% hydrocortisone cream will do. You can find it in any supermarket or drug store for around $5.

Itching isn’t the only kind of pain out there, and you really don’t want wounds to get infected in an emergency, so you’ll also want a combination pain relief and antibiotic ointment. I really like Neosporin with pain relief, which you can get for around $7 at any supermarket, but the words you’re looking for are “triple antibiotic” and “pain relief.” I know from personal experience that this works on things like rashes and sun burns.

But what if you have pain in the mouth? Not to worry, any 20% Benzocaine oral pain reliever will work. Not only will it soothe cold sores and fever blisters, but it will also help if you have a pain in your tooth and you can’t make it to the dentist immediately. A half ounce tube costs around $6, and you can get it from any supermarket. Sensing a pattern here?

Speaking of cold sores - soothing the pain is great, but when you get an outbreak, those little bastards will just NOT go away. I’ve found that the best way to get rid of them is to use Herpecin L, which not only removes the discomfort but also speeds the healing. It also serves as 30 SPF sunblock. A tube costs around $4 and you can get it in the medicine aisle.

All right, you’re all set for skin pain, but what about deep muscle and joint pain? Get your cheap jokes ready because I’m about to recommend BEN GAY. Yes, it’s stinky, and yes, it has a silly name, but when you’ve got an ache deep inside you, nothing hits the spot like Ultra Strength Ben Gay and the pleasant burn that hurts so good. There are probably other good pain relievers out there, but I just like saying BEN GAY. A 4-ounce tube costs $6 and, again, can be found at the supermarket.

Finally, keep an eye on your medications, especially if you keep them in the car where it’s hot. When they reach their expiration date, don’t throw them away; just cycle them out of your bug out or get home bag and put them in the medicine cabinet where they will be used soon. Medicines within a year or two of their expiration date aren’t bad; they’re just less effective. So keep the effective stuff in your kit for an emergency!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Lazy Afternoon Schmooze Your Community Pt 4: Yard Work

Happy Forgetful Frugal Friday!

Today I'm kind of phoning it in (if you will) with this week's vlog.

However, do NOT miss the message of time being limited! We are all slaves to time, so get help where you can, and relax when you can.

Be good, be safe, and if you can't be safe, be good and dangerous!

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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