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Monday, November 11, 2019

Hen Condo Winter Mods

This week: Keeping my chickens dry and warm and happy.

I just bought a new coop. It’s awesome, complete, and should outlast my desire to need it. However, winter is here, the girls are crowded, and I have to make some adjustments.

Godspeed to you all.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Live Traps

Whether you live in a rural or urban location, there are times when the local wildlife will become a nuisance. However, if they get into your food storage, they become much more than a nuisance:
  • Skunks and raccoons carry rabies which is a threat to humans and domestic animals. They can also slaughter a coop full of chickens in a night.
  • Possums are generally beneficial critters that eat a lot of insects, but they have a habit of scattering the contents of trash cans.
  • Stray cats can put a dent in the local bird and small mammal population. This may or may not be a problem, depending on what they are preying on; rats and mice are fair game, as are birds that endanger stored grain, but when they start to compete for food with people (by hunting rabbits and squirrels, mostly), they become a nuisance.
  • Stray dogs that have formed a pack are no longer domesticated and are a hazard to people and livestock. In most rural areas, dogs seen chasing deer or livestock are given the “3 S” treatment; Shoot, Shovel, Shut up.
  • Groundhogs serve no good purpose that I'm aware of; they're just a pest.
  • Gophers and moles might make your lawn look bad, but they also eat a lot of earthworms that do a good job of aerating and conditioning the soil.

If you live inside city limits, the locals will not appreciate you using firearms to remove a nuisance animal. The level of their annoyance will vary by the politics of your area, but you're likely to get a ticket at least. Blazing away at a possum in your trash can is a good way to let everyone within earshot know that you have firearms, which is poor operational security (OPSEC) and could set you up for a visit by the local thieves.

Rural living has the advantage of fewer neighbors and fewer laws, but there are times when killing a nuisance animal isn't the answer:
  • Possums can be relocated to the woods, preferably a few miles away so they don't come back.
  • A neighbor with a rodent problem could use a few stray cats around his barn (be sure to ask first).
  • Skunks, foxes, and raccoons are considered fur-bearing animals, and some states have seasons when you can and can't harvest them.

The easiest way to remove a nuisance critter is with a live trap. I've been around standard leg-hold and conibear style traps, and they have the disadvantage of being indiscriminate in what they kill, but live traps let you decide what to do with your catch. Since the bait used for raccoons and possums is attractive to cats and dogs, it's nice to be able to dump Fluffy or Spot out of a live trap unharmed.

We keep a couple of Havahart live traps at the family farm for nuisances. They are a well-made brand that has been around for a long time, and the newer “Easy set” versions aren't as finicky as some of the old styles. You'll have to follow the instructions on how to set the trap, and Havahart has a YouTube channel instead of printed instructions. These traps aren't exactly cheap, but they last for decades and can be loaned out as needed, which means that not everybody needs to own one. They do come in different sizes; I stick with the medium and large because I've had pests that won't fit into the small ones.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Fallout Shelters

One of our readers on Facebook brought up fallout shelters as a form of prepping. Done properly, a fallout shelter is a moderately expensive ($5,000 -  $10,000) bit of prep because they're not as prevalent as they once were.

First, a disclaimer: fallout shelters are not the same as bunkers. A full-blown nuclear war bunker will have an armored door, air and water filtration systems, and months or years of supplies for the occupants, whereas a fallout shelter is a temporary shelter to get people out of the elements and away from the residue that will drift out of the sky following a nuclear blast (fallout). These shelters were designed and stocked to be used for a week or two, just long enough for the worst of the radioactive materials to burn out. Erin has explained radiation in past articles, but the short version is that the most energetic (dangerous) isotopes burn out quickly, so a couple of weeks underground is a good way to avoid exposure.

Sixty years ago, during the Cold War between the US and the USSR, nuclear war was a very real possibility and people prepared for it as best they could. An old neighbor's house had a decent one built into the basement with built-in shelving, bunks, and a double-turn entrance, meaning that the entrance was built so that there was no direct line of sight from the inside to the outside which provided a barrier to radiation. The neighbors turned it into a pantry for storing bulk foods, but it was still useful as a storm shelter. The threat of nuclear war has subsided, but having some place safe from tornadoes and other environmental hazards is still a good idea.

During the Cold War, our government actually set up a department of Civil Defense (CD) to provide information and supplies to the civilian population. I won't get into politics (we don't do that here), but this was an example of government actually trying to help the taxpayers. Unfortunately, the CD was replaced by FEMA in 1979, and their focus shifted to other threats. Simple supplies, well marked and pre-positioned where they will be needed, is something I'd like to see come back.

If you look around in the lower levels of older buildings, you may see a sign like this. These signs designated areas that the building's owners had loaned to the government for use as shelters. 

I was recently “promoted” at work and was handed a location of my own to run. The “new” location is a grain elevator that was built in 1955, in a very small town about an hour's drive from a major Cold War target. While digging through the accumulated papers and files, I found the original “license” papers for the fallout shelter on our site and some of the shipping papers for the supplies that the US government had placed there in 1962. Since the elevator is made of reinforced concrete and has a rather spacious “basement” area underground for pipes and conveyors, it would have made for a fairly comfortable shelter. The supplies had a limited (5 year) shelf-life and are long gone, but I did find the radiation detection kit sitting on a shelf in the back office. I'll do an article on that box later.

Here's a list of what was stored in my location for a maximum of 50 people and the descriptions from the official paperwork (the shipping papers didn't match the instructions exactly):

Crackers 5 gallon, 24.5# (11 cartons)
Food package, biscuit, survival. A wheat flour baked biscuit similar in taste and texture to a graham cracker. Each package provides 10,000 calories per person for 7 people. Each cardboard container contained six 6-pound cans of biscuits (390 biscuits, each 2.5”x2.5” and providing 30 calories).

Drum, metal, water storage (10 each)
17.5 gallon metal or fiber water containers, providing one quart of water per person per day. They were shipped empty with a plastic liner provided to keep the water clean and were to be filled once they reached the shelter. Remember the 5 year shelf-life?

Bag, liner, polyethylene (20 each)
For the water drums. The extras are so the drums can be used as toilets once the water is gone.

Sanitation kit, model 5K 1V (1 each)
A fiber (cardboard) drum, 16” diameter and 21” high containing:
  • 1 polyethylene liner bag
  • 5 pints toilet chemical (deodorant/disinfectant)
  • 1 privacy screen (5'x8' sheet of plastic)
  • 1 roll twine (for the privacy screen)
  • 6 wire ties (to close filled bags)
  • 20 rolls toilet paper
  • 1 can opener
  • 6 bottles of 50 Globoline water purification tablets (iodine-based water tablets)
  • 1 toilet seat
  • 1 pair plastic gloves
  • 20 plastic canteens (for rationing the water)

Medical kit A (1 each)
Medical kit A was the smallest and designed for 50 people. The B kit was for 100, and the C kit was for 300 and contained medications that wouldn't be allowed in today's political climate. The A kit contained:
  • 5 bottles of 100 aspirin
  • 1 bottle of 100 Aluminum Hydroxide Gel tablets (antacid)
  • 1 bottle of 10 Bismuth Subcarbonate tablets (similar to Pepto-Bismol)
  • 1 2 oz bottle of Calamine lotion (for skin irritation and rashes)
  • 2 bars surgical soap
  • 1 1 oz bottle of Eugenol (the active ingredient in cloves, useful for toothaches)
  • 2 4 oz containers of surgical jelly
  • 1 1 oz container Tetracaine ointment (similar to Lidocaine, a topical numbing agent)
  • 1 qt Isopropyl Alcohol (disinfectant)
  • 1 bottle ear drops
  • 8 4 oz containers Elixir Terpin Hydrate ( an expectorant, used to loosen mucous in the lungs)
  • 2 ½ oz eye and nose drops
  • Various bandages, dressings, sanitary pads and belts (ask your grandmother)
  • An official Civil Defense Medical Self-help Manual.
As you can see, the water and food supplies were subsistence level, and the medical supplies were mostly medicine cabinet grade. Since the occupants were expected to be mostly sedentary, with no heavy work or exertion, two weeks on this diet wouldn't have been pleasant but it would have been survivable. Being in a grain elevator there would have been plenty of wheat and corn to supplement the rations, with a few rats for extra protein.

There are a lot of resources online for designing or buying a fallout shelter. If you just want to see some of the history of the CD system, I recommend the Civil Defense Museum. I'm trying to contact the owner of that site to see if he wants any of the stuff I've found; otherwise, it will probably go to a local museum.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Night Vision Binoculars 90 Day Test

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

Back in July, I mentioned that I bought some inexpensive night vision binoculars from one of the stores I call on. I've had a chance to try them several different times, and so it's time for a review.

Night Hero Binoculars

To be clear, these night vision binoculars use an emitter to illuminate your area of view. They are adequate as binoculars for day use, and at night I can see quite a distance clearly enough to plan out where to walk.

From the Amazon page:
Wish you could see what goes bump in the night? Out camping and are weary or the local wildlife? Harness the power of night vision goggles in a convenient, everyday pair of binoculars! Atomic Beam Night Hero Binoculars give you optimal day vision and night vision. Thanks to the special atomic beam laser you’ll see objects hidden in the darkness from 150-yards away.
I don't have an area where I can measure 150 yards and try to see clearly, but I do know that, at what I guess is 50-75 yards, I can see well enough to walk through an unlit park without any problem. As I mentioned in my previous post, I didn't know about battery life and I still don't know exactly how long the batteries will last with constant use. I've used them twice a month since July and not more than maybe 2 hours total time, so I like to think this was realistic use. I suppose I could hold the switch down, but I wanted to give the binoculars a real world test.

I missed having some inexpensive binoculars that I could haul everywhere and not really worry about. The quality of the lenses is good enough for spotting on a 100 yard range, in good light with reactive targets. 

I'm keeping mine.

Recap And Takeaway
  • I forgot about a purchase last week: one tire for my Accord. I hit something on my Zero Dark Thirty commute which caused a puncture just off the tread on the side wall. I used money I've been setting aside for tires in my reserve funds, so it wasn't a large problem. I will replace the other side next month, so that the axle pair will match.
  • Reviewed this week: the Night Hero Binoculars by BulbHead, found on Amazon for $38.90 with Prime.
* * *

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, November 5, 2019

Pantry Organization Update

My pantry has become a mess. On the positive side, we're storing more food and a wider variety of foods; on the negative side, my old system hasn't kept up as our scale has increased. Being a good-ish Mormon is catching up to me somewhat.

Fall is a great time to check your supplies. Seasonal changes are a built-in reminder, and if you entertain like we do you'll need to inventory your stocks anyway with the holiday season pending. It was while we were doing this very inventory that we decided we're past due for some upgrades, which will be extensive. I have a huge amount of space in my pantry, but a lot of it is less than ideally usable.

As I mentioned in my previous article, boxed and especially bagged goods are still a nightmare for organization. My shelves are quite deep (in the neighborhood of 24") and make it a bit tough to see what is on the shelf. In short, my shelves are too deep front-to-back, a bit too short in vertical space, and generally lacking access.

The first thing I plan to do is remove a tier of shelving. It'll cost me a bit of space, but it's going to make space for a can organizer. I'm going with the largest unit they have, since I'm at the point that I need to store that many varieties of canned goods. If you're not at that point, you can go with a smaller model and expand later.

Boxed and bagged goods will move to under-shelf baskets. This will keep them from hiding behind other item, and allow me to better see what I do have. Also, elevating these goods frees pantry space below them for other items. I also have a fair bit of dead space at the bottom of my pantry that can be utilized with hanging baskets.

My preliminary math has me expecting a wash on actual space available, but a substantial gain on usable space. Knowing what I have available will ensure I not only don't run out of supplies, but also don't over-buy items that I already have because I can't see them when I make out my shopping list. I'll show pictures as I do the actual build so you can see the progress of the project.

Optimize your space to save time and money.


Monday, November 4, 2019

Practice Makes Prudent Prepping: Detroit Gambler 500, Part 1

 Over the winter I’ll be planning and preparing for the Detroit Gambler 500. If you are unfamiliar, check them out here.

Godspeed to you all.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Zombieland Rules for Preppers

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Yes, this is a couple days late for Halloween. My apologies; it's been a rough week for a lot of us, which explains why we had no posts on Tuesday or Thursday and why mine is late.

But hopefully it's still somewhat " 'tis the spooky season" this weekend, and in that spirit I give you a somewhat-serious take on the Zombieland rules of survival and how they can be applied to preppers for all sorts of apocalypses.

Rule #1: Cardio
Being in shape is important, although I would suggest more than just cardio exercise. Most Americans need to lose about 30 pounds, myself included, and not only would that make us lighter and faster but it will also increase our lifespan. Furthermore, in disasters and emergencies we may need to lift, move or carry something heavy in order to save lives, so being strong and healthy allows us to do that and also protects us from injury (see #18, below).

Every prepper should be able to do at least one push-up and one pull-up, and be able to sprint 100 yards without getting winded.

Rule #2: Double Tap
In the context of the movies this is meant to illustrate the concept of "If you need to kill something, take the extra time to ensure that it's truly dead instead of just wounded." This can apply in various situations from ethical hunting (if you wounded an animal, follow it and put it out of its misery quickly rather than letting it suffer) to self defense (shoot until the threat is neutralized and never shoot to wound). 

Important Disclaimer: If you do shoot someone in self defense, NEVER perform a coup-de-grace. That's a good way to get yourself arrested, charged, and convicted for murder. 

Rule #2 (Deleted Scene): Ziploc Bags
Weatherproofing is important, especially for supplies which can be spoiled by exposure to moisture. Food, ammunition, and fire starting supplies like matches and tinder all need to be kept dry. You need to keep dry, too, because being wet leads to being cold which can lead to hypothermia. 

Rule #3: Beware of Bathrooms
When you're using the restroom, you are uniquely vulnerable: your pants are literally down and you typically don't have another way out. If there's only one way in and you're cornered, then you have to get past an assailant in order to escape. However, people do need to use the toilet, so in situations where you feel you might be in danger when using the bathroom, utilize the buddy system (see below). 

Rule #4: Seatbelts
Use all protective gear available to you, because prevention is the best cure. 

Rule #6 (Promotional Video): Cast Iron Skillet
Not shown in the movie but rather in a series of promos for the movie. While the video suggests it as an weapon, I take it as a reminder that we are surrounded by tools which can be repurposed for different tasks. Don't forget to improvise!

Rule #7: Travel Light
When you have to evacuate, don't let your preps weigh you down. Getting to safety alive is preferable to dying with all your stuff. 

Rule #12 (Promotional Video): Bounty Paper Towels
Hygiene is important for health (especially in a situation involving infection materials) as well as happiness.

Rule #15 (Promotional Video): Bowling Ball
Need to throw something? Just use a little ingenuity to make it easier. Use gravity to help you whenever possible. 

Rule #17: Don't Be a Hero
This rule applies in both interpretations. Sometimes it's necessary to risk your life to save others, especially if they're loved ones, but remember that you can't help anyone if you're trapped, injured, unconscious or dead. Don't take foolish risks!

Rule #18: Limber Up
If you need to move something heavy, or if you suspect you'll need to run hard, it makes sense to take a few moments to limber up. Soft-tissue injuries like pulled muscles suck on normal days; during an emergency they could mean the difference between death and survival. 

Rule #29 (Promotional Video): The Buddy System
You'll end up being vulnerable at some point; we all need to sleep and use the bathroom. Have a trusted friend (or more) watch out for you while you rest, clean yourself, etc. 

Rule #31: Check the Back Seat
Looking behind you on a regular basis is a habit all people ought to cultivate. In the military this is known as "Checking your six". 

Rule #32: Enjoy the Little Things
Morale is critically important during an emergency or disaster; a fatalistic mindset can result in fatalities. When possible and when it's safe, take time to do something fun to raise spirits and remind you that there's something to live for at the end of all this. 

Rule #33 (Promotional Video): Swiss Army Knife
I actually don't much care for the Swiss Army Knife as I feel it doesn't do anything well and does many things badly. However, never underestimate the value of a good multitool, like a Leatherman

Rule #52: Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help
This is from the new movie, Zombieland: Double Tap,  which I haven't seen yet but hope to see this weekend. In many ways it's a restatement of #29, but it's also a reminder that human beings will respond to cries for help. In fact, emergencies tend to bring out the best in people, so form a group and get things done.  

If there are any more rules in the new movie (and there ought to be) I'll list them in a follow-up article!

The Fine Print

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

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