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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Prepping Pays Off

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

I always try to live what I write: prepared to take care of myself and others, if and when necessary. I had my chance to show it last week!

Right Place And Ready

I was at work and about to punch out for lunch, when I saw a huddle around one of the tables. When I got over to where I usually sit, the reason for the crowd was obvious: one of the loaders has a pretty decent gouge on the inside of his knee. By the time I arrived, things were cleaned up and the bleeding had mostly stopped, but the attempts to cover the area were pretty poor. The closest 1st aid kit is always pretty slim on supplies, as if people take 2-3 times as much as needed.

Funny, that.

 'Tis but a scratch
As I sat down, the kid was trying to tape down a 4"x4" pad by wrapping 1/2" surgical tape around his leg. A very hairy leg. Not only wasn't the tape holding the pad in place, it wasn't sticking to his leg very well either. I got out my Trauma Pack that I talked about here and opened it up to help cover his cut...  and also to see how the contents looked, after the seal was damaged.

The contents were fine, and after grabbing the gauze roll and winding it several times over the pad, we used the included duct tape to hold the end down. There was a little more fiddling with pad placement and a re-wrap of the gauze after this picture (right) was taken before the surgical tape was applied. This fix only needed to last 3 hours, until the kid's shift ended, and I suggested buying some non-stick pads and an ace-type bandage for better hold while at work. I kept the pair of gloves and put them into another kit and gave everything else to the kid.

More Light For Less
My friend just waved around his latest Amazon find, a $20 flashlight with most of the lumens and an adjustable focus!

Now this isn't the lightest or smallest flashlight out, but for the price of $27.99 and all these features, I think it's a screaming deal! (Anker has released a newer replacement model that doesn't focus and is 500 lumens less, which I don't consider an improvement.)

From the Amazon page:

Anker Flashlight LC90

  • SUPER-BRIGHT: 900-lumen (max) Cree LED sweeps bright light over the length of about two football fields (660 ft / 200 m) and reaches nearly 1000 ft. Fully zoomable from wide to narrow beam. Features 5 adaptable settings: High / Medium / Low / Strobe / SOS.
  • LONG-LASTING: Up to 6 hours (Medium-beam mode) of powerful, non-diminishing brightness from the included premium rechargeable 3350mAh battery. LEDs boast an extended 50000-hour lifespan. Recharge in just 6 hours with a 1A adapter (not included) and the included Micro USB cable.
  • TOUGH & RELIABLE: IP65-rated water resistant and designed for use in heavy rain. Its durable aluminum body and shock-resistance endure rough handling.
  • SMART DESIGN: A pocket-friendly compact chassis with an anti-slip finish holds fast in your hand or stands on-end as an emergency lamp.
  • WHAT YOU GET: Anker Bolder LC90 Flashlight, 18650 3350mAh rechargeable battery, Micro USB cable, wrist strap, welcome guide, and our worry-free 18-month warranty and friendly customer service.

This model doesn't come with a charger, but since it includes the widely available 18650 battery, most people (including myself) already have spare batteries that fit this as well as multiple chargers.

Another downside is the 6.25 oz. weight. This is quite a bit more (almost twice) my Nightcore P12 reviewed here. The Nightcore doesn't have adjustable focus, but the Anker matches most of the other specs really well. Besides that, at 70%* of the Nightcore price, I'd not feel that bad if one disappeared or broke.

* There is a discount code shown on the Amazon that will save you even more!

Recap And Takeaway
  • Having gear close by, and knowing how to use it, is a good feeling to have.
  • While the Anker isn't exactly a throwaway, it certainly has quality features at a good price.
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but one of my previous Trauma Paks was moved into my lunch box to replace what I used.
  • I'm looking REALLY hard at at least one Anker LC90 from Amazon for $27.99 before 10% discount. Prime shipping available.


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, June 18, 2019

Oooh, That Smell

A good friend contacted me the other day. She said her sink drain had a terrible stink, and asked if there was anything I could do to help. I told her it was a problem I'd heard of before, and I had a few tricks up my sleeve that I would be happy to employ.

A foul smelling sink is an indicator that something nasty is in your drain. Nasty things in your drain need to be killed and flushed out of that drain. There are a couple ways to do this, and with the smell she described, I rounded up the whole arsenal.

The first trick I gave her was to pour boiling water down both of her drains. This is great for clearing things like grease and fat residues that can go rancid and smell horrid. Boiling water made a bit of a difference, but it definitely didn't fix the problem. When I got to her place, I confirmed that her sink really did smell as bad as she had described, so I broke out my $5 anti-smell arsenal and got to work.

The first thing I did was pour about a pint of white vinegar down each drain, then I put her drain stoppers in place and filled each sink about half full with the hottest water her system would put out. I let the vinegar sit in the drains while I prepared the second half of my knockout combo.

Plain old grocery store lemons make up the second half of this dynamic duo. By the time I finished cutting them in half, it was about time to pull the stoppers and flush the vinegar and anything it had broken loose.

It's important to flush your pipes between different cleaning agents to prevent possible bad reactions. While lemons and vinegar are both mild acids and won't cause a problem, if you were to use an acid and a base cleaner, you could get a very impressive and possibly dangerous reaction. Other cleaners (notably things like ammonia and bleach) combine to make lethally toxic fumes. Flush your drains well to prevent dangerous chemistry!

I squeezed the juice from the halved lemons down the non-disposal side, which led straight to her P-trap. We then cut the lemons into much smaller chunks and fed them to the garbage disposal one lemon at a time. (Any time you run your disposal, you want to run the sink faucet full-blast into it to flush the bits down the drain, and this process is no exception.) The acid and oil in the lemons make a wonderful cleaning agent, and the rind provides just enough abrasive to scrub away any lingering undesirable wastes.

The combo cut the smell dramatically, and hopefully as she keeps running water down her drains it will continue to dissipate. If not, there are some commercial products that are far more aggressive. Most drains can be cleaned with this method though, and it is both very safe and cheaper than a large at Starbucks.


Monday, June 17, 2019

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Canned Bread

A long time ago, in a land not so far away, I was introduced to shelf-stable bread. The US Army had developed a method of baking bread inside a foil/plastic pouch called retort cooking that rendered the bread shelf-stable with a life measured in years. The small “loaves” were a bit bigger than a dinner roll, were generally dry, dense, and quite bland even for white bread. I haven't been able to track them down recently, but I wasn't very impressed with them so I haven't tried very hard.

Having tested several brands of emergency rations and reported my findings here last year, I have been broadening my research of storeable foods with an emphasis on items that are closer to normal food. I'll leave the discussion of home canning and pressure cookers to my fellow authors who have more experience with them; I'm content with buying some of my stored food and trading for the homemade stuff.

I've seen canned bread online a few times but have never seen it on a store shelf, so I hadn't had a chance to try it. I prefer to purchase as much as I can locally as cash sales are hard to track and I like to support local businesses to keep them around. You'd be amazed at the contraction of buying options I've witnessed in my hometown over the last few decades, so I do my part to keep the few remaining stores in business. Unfortunately, canned bread isn't a big seller around here, so I went on Amazon and found a brand to try.

B&M (Burnham & Morrill) Brown Bread is my first test. B&M has used the same recipe since 1869 and they say the bread is slow-baked in brick ovens, I ordered a couple of cans and here's what I think of it.
  • 2 cans (16 ounces each) for about $12 is expensive bread. Cheap, store brand, white bread is about $3 for a 24 ounce loaf locally; the fancy breads come close to the price of the canned bread, but I have a hard time paying $6 for a small loaf sandwich bread so I don't buy the fancy stuff. I did notice that buying it by the case of 12 cans knocks the price down to $3/can, which is a lot better buy.
  • If you look carefully at the pictures to the right, you'll see the indentations from the ribs of the can on the bread after it has been removed from the can. The top is also rounded like a normal loaf and you can see spatters on the inside of the can above the bread. This shows that the bread is baked in the can, probably before the can was sealed. I didn't see any spatters or marks on the underside of the lid, so I'm betting the lids was put on after the can came out of the oven.
  • There was a noticeable “hiss” when I started to open the can, which tells me it was sealed while still warm or hot. The can itself is sturdy, an old style tinned steel can that can take some abuse.
  • The instructions said to remove both ends of the can and push the bread out but I was able to open one end and shake the “loaf” out. It is firm enough to hold its form without the can.
  • The cans I received in June of 2019 have a “best by” date of September 2020. Allowing for storage and transportation time, that means the factory gives it a shelf-life of 18 to 24 months. I'm sure it would be safe to eat, if properly stored, for quite a while longer than that.
  • The bread itself is dense, moist, and not white. I've eaten a lot of different breads over the years, and like any food it is as varied as the people who bake it. The closest I can come to describing the flavor is similar to a sweet dessert bread. The rye flour gives it a distinct flavor.
  • The dark brown color comes from the addition of a healthy dose of molasses. I personally like the flavor of molasses, but I know it turns some people off. The molasses flavor is mild, not even as strong as some molasses cookies I've enjoyed.
  • Molasses is a great source of iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and manganese. Farmers used to set out containers of it for grazing cows to lick, just as a supplemental source of minerals, but the engineered feeds have replaced that. According to the label, this bread is a fair source of iron and calcium.
  • It is bread, so the main ingredient is wheat. Sorry, gluten-intolerant readers, this one isn't for you.
  • The ingredients list is surprisingly simple: water, wheat, molasses, sugar, rye flour, whey, corn meal, baking soda, buttermilk, salt, and oil. No chemical preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors, and no emulsifiers or conditioners to change the texture. I like simple.

For something to have on the shelf, this would make a good change of pace to break the flavor monotony of a limited diet and could even be used as a treat if you like the flavor. It might do well as a breakfast food or snack; I've seen a lot of comments suggesting it toasted with a bit of butter. The shelf-life is what I consider minimal (two years isn't that long) but it's better than a plastic bag of bread from the store. For camping or hiking, the sturdy can and dense consistency would place it in the “good” category of choices for food.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Summer Has Arrived

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

If the saying goes 'Spring has sprung', then this year I'd have to say that Summer crashed the party. It's been over 95° for the last 4 days, and over 100° yesterday and today; on Monday we had two short power outages just far enough apart that all the digital readouts weren't reset when the second one hit. After that, it was decided to just wait it out.

Beating The Heat 
Honest, low humidity
I know that the San Francisco area is supposedly known for mild weather, but that's only close to the water. I'm over a set of hills on the hot, inland part of the Bay Area, and we have to plan and deal with the weather differently than those close to water. Fortunately for us, our humidity really is very low, so all that 'well, it's dry heat' really is true compared to most of the country. (I'm not talking about you, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona!) Today, even though it's 104, the humidity is 9%. This is much lower than normal, with 40% being closer to average.

First, stay out of the sun. As stupid as it sounds, don't go out if you don't have to.

If you do need to be out, wear a hat with a wide enough brim to shade your whole head.

Wearing light colors will help keep you cooler than dark shades.

Most importantly...

Drink Lots of Water
From the CDC:

Drinking water before, during, and after physical activity is one way to keep your body’s air conditioner working. Keep these tips in mind to help your body stay cool:
  • Top off your tank a few hours before you hit the court, the field, or your own backyard by drinking about two cups of cold water.
  • Keep a water bottle handy to guzzle during water breaks, halftime, or time outs. Try to drink about 10 ounces — that’s about 10 large gulps from your water bottle — every 15-20 minutes.

Our very own Lokidude wrote about make-your-own sports drink in this post, so you can save money and flavor the mix however you want.

In The Heat Of The Night 
Running the air conditioning can be expensive. Last year at my old place, the jerk roommate cranked the thermostat down to 68 during the day one month. This practice stopped  when the electricity bill came and it was $500!

There are plenty of alternatives for keeping things cool, such as fans, closing off windows in south-facing rooms with heavy drapes, or making a makeshift swamp cooler, like this:

Even with this using electricity, compared to your air conditioner you're saving money!

Recap And Takeaway
  • If it seems like it's too hot to be out in the sun, it is.
  • Nothing was purchased this week, other than 2 cases of water to take with me to work.

* * *

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, June 11, 2019

9V and Steel Wool Fire, Utah Style

Recently there's been a fair bit of discussion about starting a fire with a 9 volt battery and steel wool. This is my method. It's quick, it's reliable, and it gets hot.

Some notes before I cut to the video.

  1. The battery still showed 9 volts on a multimeter after the video, so you can do this a few times on a single battery. 
  2. Don't stomp out fire with your good boots, especially when they're fairly new. It's an instinctive thing, but fight the urge. This is two pairs in a row where I've made that mistake...


The Fine Print

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

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