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Friday, April 19, 2019

Food After the Flood

I live in farm country, so I hear a lot about the effects of the floods on the soil — farmers rely on their ground for their income, so it’s a common (and very complicated) subject of discussion. Once the dikes and levees have been repaired and the river starts to behave, landowners will be busy getting their fields back in shape for producing the crops on which we all rely.

Scraping off the sand and silt to get down to real soil is the first step, followed by filling any channels or ruts cut by the running water and burning or removing the debris left by the receding water. New soil surveys will be taken to determine what kinds of fertilizer are needed, and whether contaminants are present. A lot of fields won't get planted this year because they’re still under water, fully a month after the flood.

Contaminants
Flood water is a lot dirtier than normal river water. Once the water comes out of the river banks, it will start to pick up contaminants from various sources that the river normally doesn’t access:
  • Waste treatment plants are usually close to rivers, and when they get flooded, they add raw or untreated sewage to the flood waters.
  • Livestock and wildlife drowned by the flood will decompose and add some nasty biologicals to the mix.
  • Farm sheds and barns tend to collect leftover chemicals, so if the buildings get flooded, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and all of the solvents and other chemicals needed to work on large equipment will likely end up in the flood water.
  • The fluids in all of those vehicles now under water have to go somewhere. Fuel and oils are lighter than water, and will be carried a long way downstream. Most farms also have fuel tanks for equipment, normally 500-1000 gallons each; these can leak or rupture (when they try to float) and spill their contents into the flood waters.
  • Look around at local businesses. We have entire towns under water, so anything stored or used by the various industrial companies can end up in the flood water, too.
Unsafe Foods
https://amzn.to/2VbsX0p
One of the local delicacies around here is the morel mushroom. Since morels grow well on the land near the rivers, a lot of the prime mushroom hunting ground got inundated by the recent floods, and that has led to warnings about eating them this year. Anything that has come into contact with flood waters is unsafe to eat unless you can remove the chemical and biological contaminants present in the water, and as you can see by the picture of a common morel, with all those nooks and crannies, there is just no way to thoroughly clean them.

Also considered unsafe to eat this year are all root crops grown in soil that was covered by flood water: carrots, radishes, beets, onions, etc. are all likely to be contaminated by the soil in which they are growing. Good Friday is the traditional time to start planting potatoes, but they’re not going to be planted in a lot of gardens this year; either those plots are still under water, or they have yet to be sanitized of the contaminants.

The last of the potentially dangerous foods includes any crop that lies on the ground. Melons, strawberries, and the like are simply at high risk of picking up too much crap to be safe to eat.

Safe Foods
Things that are safe to plant and eventually harvest are the foods that grow well above the dirt: peppers, tomatoes, corn, and anything else with a sturdy stalk or stem that keeps the fruit off the ground. To be safe, discard the fruit or vegetable if its weight caused the plant to bend until the fruit touched the ground (think vine-type plants such as tomatoes that might escape their supports). Wild berries and fruits will be safe by the time they mature if the plant survived the flood itself.

Believe it or not, trees can drown if their roots are under water for more than a few days, so pay attention to your trees; even if they don’t bear fruit or nuts, your shade tree next to the house could come down in the next storm because it died in the flood.

Mother nature will take care of most of the contamination, but it takes time. A full year of sunlight, microbial action, and aeration will clean up the soil and get it ready for next year, but anything you can do to help, like tilling the soil to expose more of it to light and air, will speed up the process and assure the quality of the soil for the next growing season.


Food spoilage is one of the lingering effects of a flood that doesn’t get much attention. If you’re planning on growing your own food, the soil near a river is usually some of the best you can find, but if it gets hit by a flood, you could easily lose a year’s worth of production.  If you are scavenging for food, watch for signs of recent flooding, and choose your edibles with care.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Settling In

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

My settling in is pretty much finished, but the unpacking and final positioning? Not so much. I've had a chance to walk around a little, looking over the neighborhood (and neighbors) to get a feel for this area. It's a bit busier than the old place with more traffic on the side streets, but lucky for me, I'm on a dead-end street. This is both a Good Thing and Bad Thing.

The Bug Out Plan
Now I have to figure things out all over again. 
  • Where are the alternate routes out of this neighborhood?
  • What is the best possible place for me to park?
  • If the expected big earthquake hits, where is the closest water?
  • Who on the block might be the problem in normal times, let alone a disaster?
My friends both work, so planning won't be as simple as it was with the Master Chief. Previously, if something were to happen we would both know where things were, and moving them out would be simple even if I wasn't home. Now I've got to be certain that important papers and files get removed quickly, which means sharing their locations.

For me, that’s fairly simple; I have a file box with my papers, and a drawer with photos and mementos, to be dumped into the "grab and go" box when something collapses or is going to burn soon. Now I need to know what is important to my friends, and where to find everything.

After that, it gets a bit harder to Bug Out. With more time ,or no real threat of immediate loss, getting the balance of my preps out should only take 20 minutes and they'll fit easily into the trunk and back seat of my car. My friends, however,  need to figure out their needs, how to store everything and where to keep it, so things can be rescued fast. This isn't an easy job, but at least they can see what I’ve done and how to get started. I’m tired, but it’s a good tired.

The Takeaway And Recap

  • I still haven't purchased the escape ladder mentioned two weeks ago. Things got a bit crazy at work and I forgot. That will be fixed this week.
  • I need to get familiar with this area soon. Bad Things happen on their own schedule.
  • Personal plans need to be sorted out now. See above quote about Bad Things.

***

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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 or given in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Field Expedient Grommet Repair

Grommets are key to securing tarps and fabric goods, but sometimes they fail and need to be repaired. Here's a quick and easy way to do just that.






Lokidude

Monday, April 15, 2019

Crate Club #3: The End??


My three-month test of Crate Club comes to an end. Do I stay subscribed, or do I cancel?

Watch and find out!






Thursday, April 11, 2019

Flooding, Part 2


We’re still experiencing flooding here, but the first surge is done. I stayed dry, my house is above the flood plain, and so far, the place where I work has been spared. We got lucky where a lot of friends and family didn’t; the rapid spring thaw, combined with above-normal snow still on the ground and a moderate rain storm, caused a flash flood event that took most people by surprise.

Unlike the “normal” floods caused by the Missouri River, this one was mainly on the tributary rivers and was made worse by the Missouri being too full. If the tributaries don’t have an outlet, they back up and seem to run backwards. This blows out levees, and since we had a lot of ice on some of the rivers, it lifted that ice and created blockages at bridges. Nebraska lost 27 bridges and one dam, and has hundreds of miles of roads that are destroyed. Iowa had several small rivers go out of their banks and flood the areas between levees, and some of that water is still standing in the fields almost a month later, because it has nowhere to go. Rivers are still running high, and we have more rain in the forecast. This is going to be a long, wet year.

This was a true “flash” flood. We had maybe two hours’ notice that the rivers were going to break free, and once they did, a couple more hours before the water came. There was no time to empty businesses, and a lot of people got out of their houses with what they could carry in one trip to the car. A local motorcycle dealer managed to get his rolling stock of 400 bikes moved to higher ground, but lost everything else in the business. The used truck (semis) dealer across the street from him wasn’t as lucky, and about 200 of his trucks were submerged. Campgrounds near the rivers were swept clean, with campers and motor-homes being washed downriver. (More on the problems with vehicles and flooding in a future article.)

People are starting to get back to their homes and beginning the process of cleaning up and carrying on. That’s what happens after a flood; people continue on with their lives as best they can. I’ve seen this after the regional floods in 1993 and 2011, and the more localized flooding in 2007. Even when a house is completely destroyed, most people will rebuild if they’re allowed to do so. After the flooding in 1993, several unincorporated areas on the Missouri River were abandoned and re-zoned to prohibit new construction, but that is rare. Humans like living near water; it is a staple of life and civilization. [There is also the consideration of whether or not they could sell the old place in order to finance a move to a new place; this frequently locks people into rebuilding whether they want to or not. ~Editor]

Cleaning up after a flood is one of the few things you can prepare for. Local communities will come together and the outpouring of supplies often overwhelms some of the collection centers, but having your own supplies means you don’t have to rely on others and it makes getting started easier and quicker. Assuming that you evacuated and have returned to find your house mostly intact, there are a few things to take care of before you can start the clearing process.

The Checklist

  • Make sure the electricity is off. Check with the power company and ensure that they have killed the feeds going into your area. Find out when they will be restoring service. Electricity and water are a bad combination, so stay safe. Do not enter a flooded house if you are not certain the power is off.
  • Check your natural gas or LP supply. Make sure the gas is off at the meter or tank before entering a building. Because of the many odors stirred up by flood water, you may not notice the odor of natural gas/Liquid Propane. LP tanks float, so even if you did own a tank before the flood, you might not have one to worry about anymore — I know where a few 700-gallon tanks are sitting in the middle of a field right now, but getting them out is going to be a challenge. LP is heavier than air and will settle into basements, while natural gas is lighter than air and will accumulate in the upper floors.
  • Check with the Water Department if you’re on the grid. Find out how long it’s going to be before they can restore service, and then how long before the water is potable. They may not have answers, so keep asking and listening for information.
  • Pay attention to the weather. It doesn’t take much additional rain to turn saturated dirt into mud.


Clearing the House
Depending on how high the water rose, you may have areas of the house that stayed dry. Leave those areas for last; start at ground level and work your way down before going up. You want to clear a path on the ground level and then get the wettest stuff out first. You may need to remove standing water, so having a way to pump it is useful.
  • Remove everything that came into contact with the flood water.
  • Clothing may be salvageable, but furniture is not. Anything with stuffing or filler is unsafe to keep. Carpet and padding also has to go; area rugs may be salvageable if you have a way to clean and dry them.
  • Discard all food that the water touched. You would not believe the variety of chemical and biological contamination present in flood water, so any container that got wet is suspect. Sealed containers can be sterilized by removing the labels (that makes meal time a mystery) and washing them in a dilute bleach solution.
  • Hard plastic, ceramic, and metal can be cleaned, so set them aside until you have a supply of clean water, soap, and bleach. Soft plastic and rubber items should be discarded. Wooden utensils go in the trash or burn pit.
  • Electronics that got wet are almost always trashed. Even my waterproof cell phone is only rated for 30 minutes underwater, so your 80” TV is toast.
  • If your interior walls got soaked, start tearing them out once you have the rooms empty. The gypsum that drywall is made of is the same chemical you’ll find in larger desiccant packs, so you’re not going to be able to dry it out. Removing the drywall allows airflow to the structure of the house and will speed up the drying. Older lathe-and-plaster walls aren’t as likely to retain moisture as drywall, but will be damaged and start to decay as they dry out so you’ll need to remove it. Wood paneling should be popped loose or removed to let air get behind it and may be reusable once cleaned and dried. Insulation may also need to be removed and replaced.
  • Windows and doors that got submerged should be removed to let the framework of the house dry out. Wet wood tends to swell, so removing the wet doors and window will remove a source of stress on the remaining structure, and improve airflow. Once they dry, windows and doors may be reusable if they haven’t warped.
Have somewhere to take all of the discarded materials. Our local landfill doubled the price of waste coming in due to the sudden influx of trucks. Don’t be that guy that just dumps stuff in a ditch somewhere! All you’re doing is shifting the mess to someone else’s yard.

Cleaning
If the weather cooperates and the ambient humidity drops below 50%, you can prevent mold and mildew by drying out the interior of the house as fast as possible. Biological contaminants and the various fungi known as mold are treated with the same things you work to avoid when storing food: heat, sunlight (specifically the UV part of it), and oxygen.

  • Heat may be an option if you have a safe way to generate it. A wood-burning stove would work; a forced-air furnace probably won’t, if only because they are usually in the way of the floodwaters. Raising the temperature of the air through whatever means will also help the drying process.
  • Opening or removing windows and doors will let sunlight in and keep mold from growing wherever the sunlight reaches. UV or “black” lights set up in dark rooms will slow it down, but you need to watch your exposure to high-strength UV, because it’s bad for your eyes. A little-known fact: most commercial laundries and food-production plants use UV lights to filter air, and there are some water treatment plants that use it to kill pathogens in the water.
  • Fresh air contains about 20% oxygen, so getting air moving through the house is important. Common bleach and hydrogen peroxide are sources of oxygen — that’s the source of their cleaning power. Potassium permanganate is another oxidizer that is fairly easy to find, but a bit harder to use. Be careful with all of these, as they are toxic.
  • If you have electricity, run dehumidifiers and air conditioners as much as possible to help remove moisture from the air. Use fans to circulate air into every room. This is very important in areas below ground level with limited or no natural air flow.

Inspecting
  • Have an electrician check your wiring and breakers. Anything that was under water for more than a few hours will likely have to be replaced. I did a lot of equipment removal after the flooding in 1993, mostly consisting of commercial electronics that were full of silt and mud. This is actually easier, since you’ll have most of the interior walls torn out already.
  • Have a licensed contractor inspect the structure of the building. I’ve seen flood water move houses off their foundations, and there may be damage that you won’t recognize.
  • There’s a good chance that the local government will check your buildings. If they find too much damage, they will deem them unsafe and may condemn them. Unsafe can be repaired, but if they condemn it, you’re in for a court battle if you want to live there.
  • If you have flood insurance, or really good home-owners insurance, contact your agent and get on the list for an adjuster to inspect the damage. Be prepared to fight their estimates; they don’t make money by paying claims. Taking pictures as you clear the house will greatly back up your side of the story if it goes to court.
Once you have everything out of the house, the drying process will take weeks or months before you can start to rebuild. I’ll cover rebuilding later, once we actually get to that point around here.

Since floods are an area disaster, building materials and replacement furniture are going to increase in price (supply and demand) and become harder to find until the supply chain catches up. The delay while you’re waiting for everything to dry should give prices time to stabilize and maybe even come back down a bit.


Floods are an act of nature that we can’t control, and preparing for them largely consists of getting out of their way. Dealing with the aftermath is something that we need to think about before it happens.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Sharing the Good News

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

I’m still going through boxes and I’m not settled in yet, but there appears to be some light at the end of the moving tunnel. My hope is that it’s not a runaway train!

Good News
I’ve been talking to some of my co-workers about prepping, but only after I was asked about all the gear in my lunchbox/ice chest. We've all been in one of “those” conversations involving bunkers, guns and safe rooms before, and I try to avoid getting involved in them if at all possible. Thankfully, I don’t get them with my group; we happen to be older than the average employee for this type of retail business and tend to have a more serious attitude when it comes to caring for our families and ourselves.

So when I'm questioned, it's a genuine request for real information. One man is moving to a fairly rural area soon and had asked about prepping for colder weather -- his property has trees and it seems like he's planning to be reasonably self-sufficient. Unfortunately, the only book he has is the one that seems to be the basis for all the really bad TV shows on prepping. No, I’m not going to mention it or put up a link.

I did give him an off-the-top-of-my-head reading list and the address to this blog, and I gave him the book that I happened to have in my car: Les Stroud's SURVIVE! Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere - Alive.

From the back cover: 
https://amzn.to/2D8Vo4X
Stroud offers readers the essential skills and tactics necessary to endure in any corner of the globe, along with a wealth of insider information born of his own experiences in the outdoors and unavailable in any other book. Readers will learn:
  • How to make a survival shelter and why a lean-to is largely a waste of time.
  • Why survival kits are important, and why you should make your own.
  • Where to find water and why drinking contaminated water is sometimes warranted.
  • How to locate and trap small animals and why the notion of tracking and hunting large game is largely a pipe dream.
I really like this book for its information on survival in many different climates, even if I’m never going to be in the Amazon or the Sahara. My copy is marked up and has Post-It flags for the chapters I need, and after going over what was marked, my friend appreciated the book. I told him to keep it, but I have a suspicion I’ll get a copy back (if not the one I gave him) soon.

Even More Good News
My friends are with me in preparing for emergencies! I’ve put much of my stored food (still in totes) where everyone can find it, and everyone knows what's inside. I do have some things stored just for me, but the majority is for everyone to share. Lucky for me, what could have been a clash of cultures isn’t a problem -- my friend is Asian, and all of her cooking is absolutely amazing! There have been several attempts to ‘Stump the White Guy’ and serve unknown items, but my tastes are varied and I have only a very small list of foods that I avoid. Nothing I’ve been served over the years is offensive or impossible to eat. I've learned to cook food from several different cultures, and now have learned several different recipes from my ‘Sister’! 

My purchase of the emergency ladder mentioned in last week’s post has been pushed back at least one week and maybe two because some things changed last week here in California. One thing that I don't normally talk about is the subject of armed personal protection, it because California is not very self-protection friendly. That changed last week with a court ruling, making it easier to buy items that could possibly help in self-protection. That ruling only lasted a week, and from hearsay reports potentially millions of these items were ordered and shipped into California! I looked into spending part of my prepping budget and found that most online retailers were sold out and had very long back-order lists! Several gun blogs were asking their readers not to order so that Californians could have first shot (heh!) at the inventory! Quite a good problem to have, if you’re an online retailer.


The Takeaway
  • Always be open to answering honest questions. Who knows where the conversation will lead?
  • Prepping means having more than food put away. Some ready cash should be available to make emergency purchases!

The Recap
  • One copy of Les Stroud's SURVIVE! was given away and needs to be replaced. 
  • If you don't have a copy, Amazon has a paperback version available for $8.32 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 or given in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Electrolytes: They're What You Crave!

I’m not normally the food guy around here; what I am, however, is a construction worker who spends 40 hours a week sweating. Sweat pulls needed nutrients from the body, and those need to be replaced in order to keep you running in top form.
Commercially available sports drinks do a great job of replacing electrolytes and other minerals in the body. The original Gatorade sports drink was developed in 1965 for the University of Florida football team, and being engineered for top-flight athletes lends a bit of credibility to the product. Unfortunately, it tends to be quite expensive and has a somewhat limited shelf life.

There are also innumerable home-brew electrolyte drink recipes circulating on the internet. These vary wildly in taste and nutritional content, due to both the recipe and the particular quality of ingredients used. While some of these recipes are wonderful, others border on absolutely worthless, and without a nutritionist on call, it can be very difficult to tell which kind of recipe you’ve got.
 
There is a middle ground to be had, though: commercially produced, consistent-recipe electrolyte powders are now available. At $0.20 per 1 quart serving, they are 10x more budget friendly than pre-mixed sports drinks, and the powder has a far longer shelf life. The friend who introduced me to them sold me with the fact that there is zero taste, so you can drink it with plain water or add your flavoring agent of choice. I’m a fan of adding lemon juice to my water, mostly because a little flavor encourages me to drink substantially more, and when I'm sweating enough to actually lose weight from fluid loss, I need to drink as much water as I can.
 
Take care of yourself, so you can work longer, harder, and better, and recover faster.


Lokidude

The Fine Print


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