Friday, April 3, 2020

Social Distancing Week 3: Online Socialization & Learning

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Hello preppers! I'd ask how you are all holding up, but I've seen your Facebook posts. Those of us who are introverts are likely doing well, but our extroverted friends are likely not okay with all this.

But fear not! There are ways that extroverts can get their "people fix" without breaking quarantine. Additionally, if you're tired of reading books or watching Netflix, there are online courses you can take which will not only keep you entertained but also teach you useful prepping skills.

Online Socialization
Because I'm a nerd I play a weekly game of Dungeons & Dragons. Because I'm an introvert, I know more fellow D&D nerds online than I do in real life, so for the past 8 years I've been playing with friends across the country. Now some of you are using Zoom for telework and school, but I have no experience with that; I use Discord, which is a free chat service which works in both a browser tab and as a downloadable app. With Discord, a speaker and a microphone you can have group calls; you can also type in chat as if it were an old-school IRC channel or chatroom, drop in links to webpages, post pictures, etc. You can even have video chats, although the last time I tried that it was still awkward and limited. Still, I feel that Discord is best combination of voice and text conversation I've ever seen, and if it works for hosting a game of D&D then it'll work for chatting with your friends.

If you're playing an online game like D&D, then there are still some hurdles to be overcome: dice rolls, character sheets, and mapping with tokens. While it's tru that Discord has various dice-themed programs (called bots) which you can invite to your channel, I've found that I get my best results with another online service called Roll20. This is completely free to join and use, although there are subscription tiers which unlock additional features (I use the $5/mo service and have found no need for anything greater) and you can purchase things like maps and token in their Marketplace.  Using Discord for voice and text and Roll20 for maps, dice, tokens and character sheets meets all my needs as a D&D Dungeon Master.

If you aren't interested in role-playing games, there are still ways to have fun with friends:
  • Board Game Arena, like the name suggests, allows you to play board games online. 
  • Similarly, Playing Cards allows you to play, you guessed it, card games like poker, Go Fish, etc with your friends. If you're a fan of Cards Against Humanity, then check out Remote Insensitivity, which is an online version of CAH using a Creative Commons license. 
  • If you're more skilled with a computer and have a Steam account, check out Tabletop Simulator, which is a 3D physics engine that allows you to do whatever you want. If you hate playing online chess because you can't flip the board in anger, then this is the game for you!

Online Learning
If you want to make your time in isolation more productive then I recommend Outdoor Core, and online learning hub where professionals teach you skills in the following topics:
  • Archery & Bow Making
  • Blacksmithing, Knives, & Metalwork
  • Disaster Preparedness
  • Leatherworking
  • Navigation & Orienteering
  • Outdoor Business
  • Plants/Trees Uses & Identification
  • Ropework & Knots
  • Slingshots & Slingshot Shooting
  • Throwing Sports
  • Wild Crafting
  • Wilderness Survival
You can find course listing here. Not only are these classes very affordable, once you've bought a course it's yours forever and you can go back and re-watch it any time.

What's more, Outdoor Core is offering a 14-Day Quarantine Outdoor Skills Summit which has 14 separate 30-minute courses on such topics as
  1. Urban Net Weaving: How to Make a Bottle Sling [Instructor, Joel Graves]
  2. How to Back a Wooden Bow [Instructor, Dave Mead]
  3. Eating Wild: How to Make Tough Cuts of Game (Venison) Tender [Instructor, Stacy Lyn Harris]
  4. Stone Tools: How to Make a Slate Arrowhead [Instructor, Creek Stewart]
  5. Animal Track Casting & Track Identification [Instructor, Craig Caudill]
  6. Urban Cordage: How to make a drop spindle and spin cord from plastic bags [Instructor, Hank Gevedon]
  7. Black Nail Knots Ashley Book of Knots (ABOK) #785 Knife Lanyard [Instructor, Mandy Clinnch]
  8. How to Make a Leather Altoids' Tin Belt Pouch [Instructor, Kevin Luebke]
  9. Knife Etiquette & Knife Handling Skills [Instructor, Maximilian Neukäufler]
  10. 3 Tips to Draw from Observation [Instructor, Brandy Klindworth]
  11. Nails to Knives: How to make a knife from a nail [Instructor, Nathan Summers]
  12. How to Make a Wooden Burn Bowl + Rock Boiling [Instructor, Hutch Hutchings]
  13. Foolproof First Bow Drill Fire Kit - How to Make a Bow Drill Kit at Home from Junk and a Shot Glass [Instructor, David Polczynski]
  14. Painting with Pencils [Instructor, Andra Jensen]
  15. FREE BONUS COURSE! Rescue: 2-Pole Flip Winch [Instructor, Creek Stewart]
All for a discounted price of $43.
Note: Neither I nor Blue Collar Prepping are at all affiliated with Outdoor Core and we have received no compensation for this. I am just a big fan of Creek Stewart and anything he teaches. 

Hang in there, everyone. We can get through this!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Nature's Turn Foods

I'm always looking for ways to add to or upgrade my food options for my Get Home Bag (GHB), my pantry, and my cache at work. All three are stored food that I rotate through as I eat it, and they all require foods that are filling, nutritious, shelf-stable (no refrigeration), and well-packaged. Wandering the aisles of my local dollar store, I found some freeze-dried fruits to try and here's what I found.
  • Made and packaged by a company called Nature's Turn, there were four different offerings; peaches, apples, strawberries, and bananas. I grabbed the strawberries to test and went back for the others the next day. They were out of the peaches by the time I got back.
  • At a buck a bag, with each bag containing 15g of dried fruit, the price was fair. 15g is about half an ounce, which doesn't sound like much until you remember that this is freeze-dried and not just dried fruit: freeze-dried means less than 10% water instead of the more than 80% water of whole fruit, so it weighs a lot less than you'd think. Each bag is equal to 2 apples, 10 strawberries, or 2 bananas.
  • Freeze-drying fruit gives it a unique texture. It looks like styrofoam until you add water (or pop it in your mouth) and it reconstitutes into roughly fresh fruit. One of the early generations of military MREs used a lot of freeze-dried products; I enjoyed the “strawberry styrofoam” back then and this brand is very similar. The banana chips were not the typical rock-hard dried bananas you usually find in stores, but instead were light and airy and easy to bite into.
  • The flavors of the fruit survive the freeze-drying very well. The strawberries were sweet, the apples were some form of Fuji apples (yes, some of us are apple snobs), and the bananas held their flavor better than the dried banana chips that you usually see in stores.
  • The packaging is sturdy multi-layered material. Foil-lined plastic keeps air and light out and is thick enough to throw in a pack without too much worry about it getting punctured.
  • Produced in allergy-free factories, they are free of gluten, peanut, tree nut, egg, soy, and dairy. This one is safe to hand to just about anyone who can eat fruit. They're also kosher, vegan, and GMO-free for those with non-health related diets.
  • “Product of China” on the bag was a disappointment. I try to avoid foods from foreign countries that have lower food-safety standards. China has a bad track record when it comes to food safety, with unsafe additives and lax quality control being well documented, but it's hard to mess up freeze-drying fruits.
  • No additives. That means no added sugars, preservatives, colors, or flavorings. This cuts down on the chances that someone could substitute a cheaper but less healthy additive, a known problem with Chinese imports.
  • All of the bags were marked with a “best by” date about two years out. Freeze-dried foods typically have a shelf-life measured in decades, so I wouldn't have a problem storing these for 5-10 years.
  • The local store didn't have a lot on the shelf, so I checked Amazon. The prices online are much higher, inthe $4.50 to $7.20 per bag range. They did have dried pears on Amazon, which I may have to try. 
  • I checked the company's website and they had no mention of the freeze-dried fruits, just jams, preserves and pickles. Either the fruit is a new offering or it has been discontinued and the dollar stores got the leftover stock, I'm not sure which yet.
Other than the “Made in China” that I try to avoid, I can't find anything negative about this brand. Having something close to fresh fruit will add to my nutritional needs and the flavors will help break up the tastebud burnout of eating canned foods. Keep an eye out for these, as they'll make a good addition to your stored foods.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Take-Out Post

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

With Shelter-In-Place orders coming out or changing seemingly by the hour, many places are only doing pick-up orders or delivery. There isn't a Buffet anywhere that's open, so no posts like that from me. What's left is maybe a 2 Item to Go post.

Dr. Bronner's Soap
If you're a certain age, have done extended backpacking, or shop at natural food stores you have more than likely seen Dr. Bronner's soap. Besides making very nice, natural soaps, the good Dr. is (in)famous for the Wall o' Text labels on all of his products. While it is true that nature abhors a vacuum, it is also apparent Dr. Bronner hates blank space on his labels. No joke, this is an actual label!

Actual Label!

Here is a link to the actual text, if you think it's possible to get through it. I've heard it said that Vogon poetry is more easily understood than this label's message.

I first started using this soap years ago when camping, because it is very concentrated and a very small amount lasts a long time. I would take a 3 oz. bottle and it would last almost forever! I recently bought more soap in a larger size due to reports that soap is even more effective in breaking down the virus than detergent. The type I bought is unscented, so it is adapted to both personal use as well as cleaning dishes and surfaces that may be close to people who are sensitive to fragrances.

Weatherproof Match Comparison
In this post from March 11 I mentioned wanting to compare the on-sale matches to the UCO ones I have in my stored gear. I have the two items side by side now.
Take a look.

(L) UCO  (R) Diamond Weatherproof
It appears they have a very similar design, but I don't know if both are made in the same factory or not. Both are made with a tip that needs an abrasive strip to ignite and have a body that has a long-burning portion.

As a way to explain what these matches are and do, here is information from the UCO Amazon ad.
  • Includes 25 windproof and waterproof matches, 3 strikers and match case that can hold up to 40 matches
  • Matches are easy to light, will burn up to 15 seconds each and will relight after being submerged in water
  • Waterproof, durable ABS plastic case floats and keeps contents dry and protected; external, integrated, and replaceable striker for easy lighting
  • Extended length of match allows for added safety to keep from burning fingertips
  • Length of matches: 2.75 inches (7 cm); Kit weight: 1.7 oz. (48 g)
Now the Diamond matches are fractionally longer than what comes in the UCO case, so if I wanted to replace the originals, I would have to trim approximately 1/4" of to make them fit. Either way, I have more waterproof matches at an even better price!

Recap And Takeaway
  • I bought two 16 oz bottles of Dr. Bronner's 18 in 1 Hemp Baby Unscented soap through Amazon for $27.75 with Prime. Unfortunately, this is Out of Stock from this Seller. Check around if you are interested.
  • Waterproof matches are just one of the ways I have to start a fire and what I reach for first. If you want the UCO container, here is the Amazon link. The Diamond matches may still be on your local Home Depot's shelf, near the BBQ accessories.

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 31, 2020

Electrical Inspections

I've fixed a lot of things in my career, and acquired a few trophies. These are quite educational when demonstrating what to look for when you're checking your home electrical systems.


Monday, March 30, 2020

Friday, March 27, 2020

Protein Preps

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Now that everyone is contemplating their food storage plans, let's talk about the importance of protein in your preps. While the importance of fats and carbohydrates have been addressed in previous BCP articles, I wanted to revisit protein to specifically talk about density per unit.

The Necessity of Protein
Whereas carbohydrates are a quick-burning fuel that can leave you feeling lethargic a few hours afterwards (aka the infamous "sugar crash") and fats provide a long-term but slow release of energy, protein is the happy medium of energy-producing food . Eating a steady amount of protein throughout the day will not only leave you feeling full and satisfied but also give you the energy needed to perform tasks without crashing out.

Getting enough protein is essential to our health, and lack of it can lead to health problems such as:
  • Reduced immune system response
  • Degradation of muscle tone 
  • Increased wound healing times (just one weeping wound requires as much as 100 more grams of protein per day)
  • Cataracts and childhood blindness
Proper amounts of protein are especially needed for the ill, the elderly, and vegans. 

How Much Do I Need?
Most Americans eat more protein than we need for daily nutrition, which is a result of living in a wealthy country. This means that in a survival situation we can get by on less than we usually eat, although we won't be happy about it.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein for a healthy adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, although some believe that to be on the low side, especially if you are extremely active or trying to gain muscle. For more information I encourage you to follow the link above.

I wish to point out that I am not trying to lecture anyone on their diet; why I mentioned this ratio of grams per pound will be made clear in the next section.

Protein Density for Food Storage
Since we're all stuck at home to avoid catching COVID-19, it's important that we eat well so that we can keep our immune system strong. However, it's also important that we have the right foods put away, as we all have a limited amount of space for our food storage. Please consult this chart when you re-stock your pantry so that you can optimize your food preps.

Complete Proteins
A complete protein or whole protein is a food source of protein that contains an adequate proportion of each of the nine essential amino acids necessary in the human diet. Complete proteins come from animals (including seafood, eggs, and dairy) and the soy family of legumes (edamame, tempeh, soy nuts, tofu, soy milk).

Protip: If you are storing canned foods such as tuna and salmon, get them packed in oil instead of water. The oil will add additional nutrition along with some essential fats.

Incomplete Proteins
These are proteins which are insufficient by themselves but combine with another incomplete protein group to make a complete protein. You do not need to eat both groups of incomplete protein in the same meal; your body is able to assemble a complete protein from different meals so long as you eat them on the same day. Incomplete protein groups are legumes, grains, and nuts & seeds.

When it comes time to re-stock your prepper pantry, keep this chart in mind.


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Welcome, New Preppers!

Ah, spring, the time of year when anything can happen and usually does, including rain, snow, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and fires all over the place... and that's just Monday. The world is going through a rough patch right now and lots of people are starting to look at prepping in a different way. Some are admitting that maybe, just maybe, having some things set aside for emergencies isn't such a bad idea. Others are demanding that all of those “hoarders” be punished and their supplies redistributed to those who couldn't be bothered to plan ahead. The truly evil are looking at ways to take what they want and are looking for opportunities, while ordinary people are stepping up and providing supplies and services to their neighbors. Everyone is getting an education on prepping, whether they wanted it or not.

If you're new to the idea of prepping, welcome to the family. We're not all a bunch of greedy psychopaths looking to take your money in exchange for some piece of gear with dubious utility or longevity, and here at Blue Collar Prepping, we deal in information and teaching instead of sales and marketing. You may have noticed the shortage of ads: no flashing banners or pop-ups, no email harvesting, no books or classes for sale. For the last six years we've been cranking out new articles almost every Monday through Friday to try to enlighten and entertain our readers. None of us have gotten rich off of this; in fact, several of us have lost money. We do it because we think you, the reader, should have good information about a topic that we think is important.

We also welcome questions and guest articles if you need or have specific information pertaining to prepping. There is a search box in the upper left-hand corner of the blog page that will let you check out our archive of articles. After six years we have over 1700 of them, so you may find some of what you're looking for in a previous post.

The writers do have a few rules that have served us well.
  • We Have No Politics. I stretch this one some days, but most of the time we avoid taking sides in political issues. There are few things in today's world more divisive than politics, and we're not here to drive anyone away. Everybody deserves the information they need to survive an emergency, regardless of their political party or other “difference”. There are plenty of other blogs and webpages out there that cover the political sphere, and this is not one of them.
  • We Promote No Specific Religion. This is close to the rule above, and is important because the writing pool is such a mixture of differing beliefs that we'd all quit if anyone tried to push their specific religion. As I have explained to a few, I'm a Chaplain, but I am not likely your Chaplain. I'm not here to push my beliefs; I'm here to pass on information on other matters.
  • We Do Not Give Sales Pitches. Several of our writers have personal businesses, but you won't see them pushing their wares here. Our product reviews are done mainly on items that we have purchased with out own money (and on the rare occasions when an item was donated for testing & evaluation will state so), and we are not afraid to be honest in our reviews. If something is worthless, we'll let you know so you don't waste your money.
  • We Keep It Personal. Most of our writing is based on personal experience, not a regurgitation of something we read in a book but have never tried ourselves. If we don't know something, we're not going to lie to you and say we do. The writers are scattered across geological, educational, ideological, age, and lifestyle divides, so we can probably find someone with personal experience on most matters.
  • We Are Reasonable in Scope. The blog's name is Blue Collar Prepping, so you're not going to find descriptions of 10,000 sq ft “Doomsday Bunkers” or maps of where to fly your plane to escape a hurricane. We're working-class folks and we try to keep in mind that most people have to live within a budget.
  • We Are Civil. We don't deride or ridicule anyone other than a few really obnoxious snake oil salesmen out there. We'll call out a charlatan, but we welcome questions and differing opinions. Conspiracy theories and racist commentary are a good way to get blocked and ignored around here, as they serve no constructive purpose and hinder the flow of information.

Other than the blog, there are several ways to reach us:
There are no stupid questions, and we were all new to prepping at one time, so feel free to ask us anything. 

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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