Monday, May 25, 2020

DIY Bacon Grease Suet Treat

You know how I like to take care of my ladies and not to waste anything. Here’s a little treat I whipped up for them.

Godspeed to you all.

Friday, May 22, 2020

My Aching Back

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
As many of you may have noticed, I didn't post last week. The reason for that is the title of this post: I was in such pain that I couldn't think straight, and that pain lasted basically the entire weekend.

(Yes, insert joke about how a prepper really should have a backlog of posts ready to go for moments like this. I completely agree. The problem is finding the time to create such a backlog in the first place.)

According to the doctors, I have osteoarthritis in my lumbar region. I've had this for a while now; I can recall back as early as 2013 that my lower back would stiffen and almost lock up when I would be washing dishes at the sink, or when vacuuming the house. I chalked this up to getting older, gaining weight, and not being in the best shape I could be in. The problem is that it's gotten worse over the years, and now it's to the point where if I walk more than a hundred yards I can feel it stiffening up. Once I reach that point, I need to sit down and rest for a few minutes so that my back can relax. If I don't, the pain gets worse and worse until not only is my back screaming at me but it is also physically painful to lift my legs enough to walk. After walking the dogs last Friday I had to crawl to my chair from the front door.

As you can imagine, this condition puts rather a large dent in my prepping plans. The way it stands right now, if I have to walk any distance at all I'm likely to be screwed; if I have to walk (or run!) a significant distance to reach safety I have to hope that the adrenaline rush will carry me, and in any "long walk home" scenario my need to rest will slow me down and extend the time it takes to get there.

What's more, my back pain is also aggravated by having to lift heavy things. My Get Home Bag is still pretty heavy, so lifting the bag plus walking with it on my back it is currently a recipe for disaster. This is the main force driving me to lighten my GHB.

At this point there really isn't anything that can be done to fix my pain; we can only treat the symptoms. I was prescribed a topical gel to help reduce pain and inflammation, and was told to lose weight and do yoga for flexibility. I am... skeptical... about yoga, but that's been on hold and will continue to be on hold until this COVID-19 mess goes away. Losing weight is a goal of mine, and it's something that I've been working on for a while now, but I have absolutely no willpower when it comes to resisting evening snacks.

Here's how all of this relates to prepping:
  • Take care of your body. You only get one and it's with you your entire life. 
  • If you have chronic or persistent pain in your back after doing X activity, see a doctor about it immediately. You want to get started treating it sooner rather than later. 
  • If you're overweight, work to lose it. I'm not about to fat-shame anyone; I'm just stating the obvious that "The less weight your body is carrying, the less strain on it and the easier your life will be." 
  • Maintain mobility. If I had to bug out on foot right now, I don't know how far I'd make it other than "not very far."
  •  Make sure you can lift your pack and walk with it.

I don't know how disabled people prepare for evacuation, but I worry I may soon become one. If you're a disabled prepper, I'd love to hear your advice and stories. I'd also love to hear from you if you have overcome back problems. 

Until then, I'm going to be hobbling around the neighborhood, trying to get my flexibility... back. (Pun intended.)

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Perfect Enough

The title of this article is one of the sayings soldiers once used to determine that a job was done: "It may not be perfect, but it is close enough that it will work." This is an acceptable goal for preppers since most of us aren't experts in everything and don't have unlimited money to buy the very best of everything we might need.

Another way to express this thought is “Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. If you can't settle for anything other than perfection, you're going to spend a lot of your life being disappointed. Life doesn't always allow for perfection, and the pursuit of it can lead to results that are worse than “good enough”. Talk to any artist who works with a physical medium (painter, sculptor, woodworker, etc.) and they'll probably tell you that they have to set down their tools before they're completely satisfied with most of their work. There comes a time where any more “fine touches” will start to chew away at the majority of the work they've already done. I know this may be hard for some of you, but you have to get your mind set to accept that if something works, it's good enough.

Here are a few examples of what I mean, as they pertain to prepping.

Perfect water doesn't exist outside of a chemistry lab, so you're drinking “good enough” water on a daily basis. Your choice of filter or chemical treatment has to be as good as you can get it, but trying to attain perfection will slow you down and may end up wasting water that is good enough to keep a person alive.

Most filtration systems have a back-flush or cleaning cycle that takes clean water and uses it to purge the contaminants from the filter. Your home water softener is an example; it uses water to recharge the resin in the “bed” that traps the nasty chemicals you're trying to remove. Reverse Osmosis and Micro-filtration have a set percentage of “blow-by” water that won't pass through the membranes and is used to carry away the contaminants, and that water is wasted because it won't be available for you to drink or cook with.

Stop and talk to the people stocking the produce section of your local grocery store some time, and they'll tell you how much they throw away every day because of minor imperfections that have no effect on the taste or nutrition of the fruits and vegetables. If you're growing your own food, you'll be a lot less picky about what you'll put on the table, and the people sitting at your table will learn to eat what is put in front of them.

A lot of people would prefer to live in a mansion in Hollywood with servants and groundskeepers to do all of the menial work. That may be possible, but it isn't probable for 99% of the population. Find something that is “good enough” and falls within your budget.

Emergency shelter is similar. I have friends who might go “glamping” (glamorous camping) with a huge camper outfitted better than most apartments, but they wouldn't know what to do with a tent. As long as the shelter serves its purpose of keeping the elements off of you and your stuff, it's “good enough”. I've slept in 4-star hotels, on the bare dirt under a tarp, and everything in between. Shelter is one of the things that can be improved while still in use, so you can keep pushing closer to “perfect” while you're living with “good enough”.

While I'd love to have a rifle capable of putting every bullet into the bullseye at 1000 yards, I realize that neither my budget nor my eyes are up to the task. My bolt-action rifle with a good scope is more accurate than I am, so it is “good enough”. Yes there are better rifles out there, but I don't need them.

Pistols are a very subjective choice, so the idea of a “perfect” pistol is a fallacy. I own and carry what I can afford to shoot. Practice will make more improvement than buying a more expensive pistol.

Only you can decide which firearm is best for you. If all you can afford is a cheap revolver or Hi-Point, learn how to use it well and it should serve its purposes. I'm not saying you have to settle for something that doesn't work -- there is crap out there on the market, after all -- but rather that once you find one that does work, you should at least be content with it before looking for the next best thing.

Look at your preps and your goals, take a good look at them, and decide which are good enough. Then, leave those alone while you work on another part that isn't quite up to that standard. Don't waste time and money chasing perfection in one area while others are lacking.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Summer Shift

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

I've started changing out my GHB gear from what I carry for winter in California to what is needed for summer. Certain folks have mentioned that changing for the seasons means wearing socks with sandals when it is "California Cold," but I always have socks in my gear since I never know when it'll drop below 50°!

Summerizing my Get-Home Bag and Vehicle
What's changed? Not that much, really: a wool sweater is out, and a long-sleeve t-shirt replaces it. Two pair of wool socks stay, along with the rain gear, because even if it doesn't rain during the summer here, it can be very foggy and damp along the coast. I have been an "essential employee" all during the virus panic, so there hasn't been any down time for me or my car. After checking dates on the food I carry, my bag is ready to go.

On to the car, which is getting a new set of wiper blades, washer fluid and an oil change. Blades and fluid are purchased, and oil is going to be fixed this week. I have to do a little bit of work before installing the wiper blades, though; due to the parking area at work being surrounded by pine trees, I have sap all over my car and several dents from green pine cones. My first job is cleaning the windshield of tiny droplets of sap that prevent the blades from clearing the glass well, and after that I have to do the rest of the car with Tar and Sap remover.

Coolant level, belt (singular), tire pressure and battery are checked out and in good shape, but I'm due for a major service soon, so I'm budgeting for that.

What's Happening
There was an unusual situation last week at work: an employee got dizzy and felt sick. No, it wasn't the virus, it was dehydration. Now that sounds somewhat funny to me since it hasn't been hot here; what has happened, though, is the requirement to wear a mask while working. It seems that the employee in question had been taking breaks but not drinking any water between those breaks.

Just as a reminder, the standard for water consumption is '8 glasses a day', which is 64 oz or two quarts. Now before anyone gets jumpy, that is a general guideline and YMMV, as the Mayo Clinic states in this article. An excerpt:

How much water do you need?

Every day you lose water through your breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. For your body to function properly, you must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water.
So how much fluid does the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need? The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:

  • About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
  • About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages and food. About 20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks. 
Further down in the linked article it explains that as long as you don't feel thirsty and your urine is clear to light yellow, you are doing okay. None of this is a hard and fast rule, so adapt your drinking to your personal situation.

I admit that finding the time or place to drink when wearing a mask has been hard, since before this I just grabbed a water bottle and drank on the floor. Now that isn't quite so easy, since a local store was fined $5,000 for employees not properly wearing masks. I'm not drinking as much water as before, and I expect that many others are in the same boat; as it warms up, I believe that dehydration may unfortunately become more and more common.

Recap And Takeaway
  • Don't neglect your car preps, even if you're not driving much. There can still be an emergency that requires you to go somewhere quickly. 
  • If you have to work, don't neglect drinking enough water to keep you healthy, no matter how much or little that is.
  • Wiper blades and fluids were purchased locally from an independent auto parts store. 
* * *

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Geocaching as a Preparedness Skill

I recently  read an article which pointed out that 2020 is the 20th anniversary of the GPS game known as geocaching. This made me realize that my first geocaching find was almost 17 years ago, and that blew me away! Thinking about all of this made me realize there are some valuable skills that can be gleaned from a fun outdoors game.

The obvious first skill is proficiency with your GPS unit or the GPS on your phone. You'll learn to quickly and cleanly use its various features, as well as setting routes, waypoints, and the like. Land navigation is a valuable skill, and geocaching is a fun, cheap way to practice.

Secondly, geocaching teaches some gray man skills. Geocachers refer to non-geocachers as "muggles," and keeping caches secret from muggles is necessary to protect them. Geocachers quickly develop the ability to look for something in public without appearing to do anything interesting, and there are a lot of times in life when appearing entirely unremarkable is a valuable thing.

Also, sometimes cachers have to be quick on their feet. Very early in my caching life, I rolled up to a cache when a Jeep rolled up right behind me. I was quite active in a local caching forum at the time, and this Jeep had a vanity plate that I recognized as a user of the forum. Two people looking at a tree are fairly unremarkable, but five of us got a bit of attention. A couple kids at the playground near us started asking questions, and I don't remember who came up with it, but one of us declared us to be "tree scientists," and all of us immediately ran with it. The kids were satisfied, we found and logged the cache, and went on our way with a good laugh and a story.

One other, less obvious skill is the ability to set up, hide, and recover a cache. If your bug-out plans include a specific location like family property or something, caching durable supplies there can prove useful, and knowing how to protect your cache from the elements and the curious ensure that it will be there when you need it. Learning how to place it and mark the location means that you can find it when you come back to retrieve the contents. That's the entire heart and soul of geocaching, and it's a useful skill from time to time.

If all of this sounds interesting, has all of the information you need to get started. I started out using a Garmin GPS, and it has certain advantages, but with modern cell phones you already have everything you need to find your first geocache sitting in your pocket. You'll get outside and get sunshine and exercise at the very least, and you may acquire a few handy skills in the process.


Monday, May 18, 2020

New Normal, Does it Equal New Opportunies?

This “new normal”, while clearly a misnomer, certainly can provide some new opportunities for our safety.

Godspeed to you all.

Thursday, May 14, 2020


One of the most basic things about being a prepper is learning how to provide for yourself and your tribe when normal systems break down or are unavailable. Systems are funny things, and there are college-level courses on “proper” systems design and most of the concepts transfer between types of systems quite easily. I want to focus on one of the things that modern designers hate, fear, and avoid: redundancy. You've probably heard the aphorism “Two is one and one is none”; David is a big fan of repeating it. Having a back-up for anything you use is redundancy boiled down to its bare minimum.

Preppers have to work with what they have in a crisis situation, so redundancy is a good thing for us. If your knife breaks, you lose a job, or get stuck somewhere, you should have something handy that can provide the same functionality like a spare knife, money in the bank (or a side job), and people you can trust to feed your cat. These are all forms of redundancy that we can, and should, live with. I like redundancy, and I've made it a part of my life as having spares and back-ups has saved me a lot of hassle over the years. I try to keep at least two of everything... except for my wife, of course. 

However, I'm a bother to management when I ask for redundancy in critical machinery, as corporate HQ views having unused capacity is “wasteful” and we should all “do more with less”. That is what they were taught in Business Management 101, and they rarely learn to think otherwise.

The “just in time (JIT) supply” ideology was introduced to the US about 40 years ago and it has changed the way businesses operate on many levels. The easiest way to explain it is running as business like someone living paycheck to paycheck, and they're only one missed check away from trouble. This business style is notable for its disdain for redundancy and storage, and supply lines are the only thing that keeps it alive. Here are a few JIT points of interest and how they can be avoided by preppers.

They Say: “Warehouses are Bad, Wasteful, and Expensive” 
The days of massive warehouses full of goods are over for the most part. With the exceptions of seasonally produced goods (mainly agricultural), nobody stocks more than a few days' supply of anything. I've seen a new manager clear out a warehouse full of spare parts at a huge industrial facility (and got promoted for it) because she thought it was wasteful” to have spare motors, pumps, and valves on-site; within a year, half of the cleared-out materials had to be repurchased and put back on the shelves. Various government stockpiles have seen the same actions taken, especially emergency supplies. Selling (at a loss) something you've already paid for just to buy it again later at a higher price seems to be more wasteful to me, but then I don't have a degree in Business Management.

I Say: Be Your Own Warehouse
Your only counter to this is to have your own supplies on hand when they're needed. We have to be our own warehouses, and for preppers that means keeping extra food, water, clothing, and shelter on hand. Storage space can be a problem, so we need to learn to prioritize and keep what we need.

They Say: “Rapid Shipping is a Necessity” 
I enjoy using FedEx and UPS; they make my life simpler and provide a service. There are lots of other shipping companies out there that couldn't survive without the constant demand for immediate shipping of “operating supplies”, the things consumed on a daily basis. This is often the weakest link in the supply chain due to the many ways transportation can get messed up: bad weather, bad roads, bad drivers, and a bunch of other things can all delay shipments for days or weeks. Getting the wrong thing delivered is another common problem.

I Say: Have a Back-Up Plan
If you rely on regular shipments of anything, medications come to mind, have a back-up plan. We get some of our prescriptions filled online and shipped overnight/express, but the local pharmacy has a copy of the prescriptions and can fill them in an emergency. There have been a few times where an extra few days' worth were all we could get locally, but it helped get us through until the order arrived.

They Say: “24/7 Operations Are Now Normal” 
40 hour/5 day weeks are fading into the sunset and most businesses are moving towards having at least a skeleton crew working around the clock to take care of the inevitable emergency customers. Since nobody carries their own stock of supplies, running out of something creates an emergency that needs to be addressed. This, coupled with the digital connectivity afforded by cell phones and computers, has changed how most people work.

I Say: Train Your Tribe To Cover For Each Other
Since I'm one of those “on-call” employees that works whatever hours the customers need, I've set aside times where I'm not available. It took some training of the new hires, but I can now rely on them in the event that something prevents me from getting to work. This allows me peace of mind and gives me time to take care of personal things.

Cross-train your tribe to take the pressure off of each other by having redundant skills. Think about how you'll deal with situations such as having to work different hours or your normal contacts stop offering 24/7 service. I'm somewhat lucky to live in a small town with only one cafe (no stores) that is open 24 hours a day; it's forced me to plan ahead more since I don't have the option of running down to the all-night grocery store if I run out of milk.

They Say: “Central Planning & Projection is a High Priority” 
This is a philosophical and political issue. Is it more efficient and better to have local control over things, or central? The central planners get more power/control over their subordinates (it's a pathological thing for some folks), but local conditions are often ignored. This is not a new issue; America has struggled with it for as long as we've been a country and businesses have fought over it in the marketplace (check out the DC vs. AC, Edison vs. Westinghouse electricity competition of a hundred years ago). 

I Say: Prepare Locally
I'm not a supporter of central planning; it fails too often, and when it fails it impacts a large number of people. Look at most of the laws written in our state capitols and Washington, DC: the people writing them can't (or won't) plan for all of the possibilities over a large area, and we get poor laws as a result. If you want another example, Soviet-era Russia is a study in the failure of central planning.

Prepping is about as “local” as you can get. If you want to see how well central planning works for localities, just read some recent history of “emergency response” by our various government agencies. Organizations that large move very slowly, which is why FEMA tells us to have our own 72 hour kits. Make your own plans and set aside your own supplies.

Redundancy gives you options, and options give you a better chance of getting through a crisis. Look at your daily activities and see where a bit of redundancy can be implemented to help you be prepared; look for that weakest link, and find a way to replace it if it should snap.

The Fine Print

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