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Friday, October 31, 2014

10 more preps for under $10

Not actually Erin.
Picture by KJ Photography
& is used with permission.
I'm getting ready for a Halloween Soiree, and since I figure most people are doing likewise, here's another quick and easy 10 for $10 post that you can read tonight -- or tomorrow morning over your coffee, should you be too busy with ghouls, goblins and wee beasties.


1)  Paracord.  Basically the duct tape of camping, not only is it very strong rope (the 55 stands for being able to support 550 pounds), you can take out the inner strands and use them for things like dental floss, fishing lines, etc.  Replace your shoelaces with paracord and you have a free, weightless prep.

2)  WD-40.  This is used as a solvent to remove rust and displace water. It is NOT a long-term lubricant, as it quickly dries out and leaves surfaces un-lubricated and vulnerable to rust. It also has a tendency to attract dirt. For lubrication and rust protection, use CLP (mentioned in my previous 10 for $10 article) instead.

3)  Swiss Poncho. Actually, this is properly a rain cape and not a poncho; the difference is that a cape is a fitted garment while a poncho is essentially a rectangle folded in half with a hole cut in the middle for your head. I like this item for three reasons:
  1. Countries in wet Western Europe know how to make proper rain gear that keeps you dry.
  2. You can fasten the snaps around your legs if you want to ride a bicycle (or a horse).
  3. It's large enough to cover a military rucksack and still keep you dry.

4)  Emergency Sleeping Bag. It's like a Mylar rescue blanket, only enclosed so that you don't lose heat to the cold, hard ground. Pair this with the poncho above and you'll make it through any cold and wet situation that doesn't involve snow.

5)  Is there snow? Need to dry out wet clothes?  Build a fire with a magnesium fire starter. Make sure it's true magnesium, though, and not a conglomeration of cheap pot metal.



6)  Although if you're going to start a fire, it's far easier to light a match and start a survival candle burning. A stable source of flame is damn handy, and this will also give you light to see if it's getting dark.

7)  Fresnel Lens. While you can start a fire with it, there are easier ways. Instead, just keep this credit card-sized magnifying lens in your pocket/wallet/purse and use it to, well, magnify things. Good for minor first-aid tasks like removing splinters and the like.

8)  Starflash Signal Mirror. Reflective like glass but made of plastic, it's scratch-resistant, aimable, unbreakable (they claim) and it floats. Pair it with...

9)  ... a UST Jetscream Whistle and you have an unbeatable combination for signaling with sound and light.

10)  Put all your stuff into an inconspicuous sling bag or backpack and make your Get Home Bag look like it's filled with school work or gym stuff.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rock Ridge Saloon

Welcome to Rock Ridge.

To recap the idea behind the Rock Ridge series, not everyone is going to be able to live off of the land after a major catastrophe. There will be those who are not suited to raising their own food, but will have other skills that they can use to make a living. I am using the fictional town of Rock Ridge (ca. 1870) as an example of the skills and services that may be in demand after TSHTF. It doesn't have to be “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”; people lived comfortably in small towns and villages for centuries before the invention of electric lighting and automobiles.


Saloon
The basic idea behind the operation of a bar, saloon, public house, or tavern is that people like to get out and socialize. When living quarters are tight and entertainment options are few, going to the bar is a proven way to “get out”. This usually involves alcohol as a social lubricant. People like to drink, gossip, listen to music, and gamble despite all of the experiments to convince them that these are bad things. With luck, after TSHTF people will be willing to leave each other alone in their choices of entertainment and the neighborhood bar or pub will make a comeback. Having a place where people can exchange ideas, relax after a long day trying to stay alive, or just get drunk enough to dull the pain of living would be a good step towards establishing a town.


Layout/ Services
Depending on the size of the town, the saloon would offer a variety of services, each of which would influence the floor plan.The saloon in Rock Ridge is a building by itself, but many small taverns and pubs are in the cellars or basements of other businesses.

Of course, you'll need a bar:  the raised counter that the bartender stands behind and the customers come to to order their drinks. The bar provides a separation between the employees and the customers, making it easier to keep the customers from helping themselves to the stock. It also provides a surface on which to serve the drinks, and stools give the customers a place to park while enjoying their libations.

The main room would be filled with tables and chairs of whatever design fits best. Most saloons and bars will work best with round tables big enough for four to six people to sit around so they can play cards or converse without having to raise their voices, whereas a public house or tavern may work better with long tables and benches to allow larger groups a comfortable place to gather.

Rock Ridge is big enough to attract traveling entertainers, so the bar has a stage and the backstage fittings (curtains, scenery, and simple props) needed for the shows. The changing rooms would be big enough to provide a place for the stars to sleep while they are in town. The crew would have to find accommodations in a local hotel or boarding house.

If the saloon is doing well, the owner may hire a musician to provide background music. The Wild West stereotype is that of a piano sitting in one corner, but in other times and places they might have any assortment of stringed or woodwind instruments:  wandering violin players working for tips, mariachi bands with guitars and mandolins, or even just a storyteller/singer. The phrase “singing for your supper” has a historical basis to it.

“Pub food” might be available. Rough fare, simple food, this is not a restaurant so the menu is going to be limited and cheap. Stews, bread and cheese, and other food that is easy to prepare and serve would be the staples.


Drinks
Most small-town bars would brew their own beer if the ingredients were available from local farmers. Water, barley, hops, and yeast are all it takes to make beer, and since there was typically only one bar in town, the patrons would drink whatever was on tap. Rice and corn (maize) are often used to increase the sugar available to the yeast if barley is scarce.

Whiskey was usually shipped in from a larger town, since the distillation of liquor takes a bit more equipment and training to get right. Forget the aged single malt Scotch; most of the whiskey found in a bar 200 years ago was watered-down moonshine. Ice wasn't available, so whiskey was served neat, at room temperature.


Regional drinks
  • Rum is fermented and distilled from sugar cane and ships well, so it might be available in your area. 
  • Hard cider is fermented apple juice, so if apples will grow in your area you'll be able to have hard cider. 
  • Vodka was originally made from potatoes, but can be made from any source of starch. 
  • In Europe, wine is a part of life and is served with meals. Grapes are a pain to grow in most areas, but wine can be made from any fruit that will grow in your area.
In America the Temperance movement of the late 1800's and early 1900's conducted a crusade against alcohol in all forms, eventually leading to Prohibition and all of the taxes and laws that survived it. After TSHTF, most of those laws will probably be ignored, since there will be no shortage of other things to worry about.


Other services
Many bars were co-located with brothels. Deadwood and Lead, both in South Dakota, have preserved some of the old architecture of the frontier days and incorporated it into the casinos that took over the town a couple of decades ago, and there was plenty of evidence of brothels in those mining towns. In an area where the men outnumber the women due to the industry that the town supports, brothels will pop up. Human nature almost guarantees that men will pay for sex and that some women will oblige them by offering it for sale.

Gambling was a popular pastime (and still is in the states that allow it), and the offerings could vary from a friendly game of poker among friends to a full casino with roulette tables and professional gamblers. Cards, dice, and games of chance are timeless ways to wager small sums and waste time.

Information: if you've ever tended bar you know how much private information people will pass on once they've had a few drinks. Add in the opportunities to observe other townspeople on a regular basis and the bartender can quickly be one of the main sources of gossip.


Who should look into opening or running a saloon?
If you don't mind putting up with drunks and can find a source of alcohol to stock a bar, you might be able to keep food on the table by running a saloon. You'll probably have to manage a few employees and keep a good set of books to track your “cash” flow, and the hours can be long. Depending on the customers you have coming in, a bouncer may be a good idea to have on hand, and a couple of servers tending the tables will keep the customers from having to go to the bar for another round.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Prudent Prepping: Solar Panel Test Part 3

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Now we concentrate  on what to do in, and how to plan for, the long term via Prudent Prepping.



Solar Panel Test Part 3
or 
Finally, Just Right!


Here comes the third and (I think) final installment of the Great BCP Solar Recharger Saga.

This is the Bushnell SolarWrap Mini. The name Bushnell should be familiar to outdoor sport enthusiasts from their history of producing a long line of optics, from binoculars, scopes and rangefinders, to new products like their LED camp lights. Their selection of solar panels is not as wide as Goal Zero, but seem to have an equal number of models designed to charge portable devices.

Shown in the picture is the SolarWrap Mini and its optional USB power cord. The Sharpie is there to indicate scale.

From the Bushnell website:
Weight: 3.1 oz
Size: 4.3" x 1.25"
Deployed Length: 18.25"
Wall Charging: 4 hrs
Solar Charging: 10 hrs
USB outlets: 1
Power Output: 5v, 1a
Battery: Li-Ion



The Test
Unrolled, showing the protective end covers
This charger is much more simple than the Goal Zero that I previously tested (and is borrowed from the same friend). The panel itself is a flexible material which allows it to be rolled up and stored in a very compact space. The SolarWrap Mini is said to be able to collect energy in less than ideal conditions and work without a perfect angle to the sun.

Since the SolarWrap is so small and light, I hung it on the edge of a table facing dead south, first thing Sunday morning . This did not fully charge the internal battery so the charger was hanging again Monday morning to top off the battery.

I allowed my iPhone to run down to 22% Monday and plugged it in to the SolarWrap with the Standard USB port (opposite end from the indicator light) about 8 PM and allowed it to run until full. It was still going when I went to bed at 11, so I do not know exactly how long it takes to bring my 4S to 100%, but it was complete by the next morning.

Red charging indicator light
The SolarWrap Mini does not have the ability to charge multiple items or chain connect several panels together, but for the light-weight camper, or the Get Home/Bug Out Bag user that just needs to charge a phone, this seems like a great fit.

An option worth considering is the AA battery charger seen here. This add-on costs more than the panel, but makes the kit much more versatile with the ability to recharge AA batteries used in small flashlights and other common devices.


Recap
I really like this charger!

The Good

  • Light weight 
  • Compact size 
  • Flexible panel is difficult to break
  • Buy it new on Amazon for approx. $50 

The Not So Good

  • Nothing I can think of in the time I had to test it.

Rating
For my intended use (and budget), this charger is near perfect! I have to give the Bushnell SolarWrap Mini 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


As always, 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 be 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, October 28, 2014

Product Review: UCO Micro Candle Lantern

Chaplain Tim has been talking about various lighting methods recently, and I decided I wanted to chime in with one of my favorites, and review a new gizmo I picked up.

I've been on the lookout for a candle lantern for a while now.  A couple friends had them when we were kids, and they were great for camping trips.  They were cheap to buy, cheap to run, and didn't require special, potentially dangerous fuels that might worry our parents.  I finally stumbled across the UCO Micro Candle Lantern at a local sporting goods store, and it looked like just what the doctor ordered.

Collapsed lantern.

Set up for use.

Base removed for candle access.
Spare candle storage.

Candle lanterns have several appealing features, particularly the tealight variety.  They tend to be more compact and lighter than other light sources.  They don't require batteries or volatile fuels.  Candles can be purchased for a song, and will store virtually forever.  Those with a bit of knowledge can even make their own candles, and citronella candles can also be had, giving the additional benefit of keeping insects away.  They also generate a bit of heat, although I wouldn't depend on one for a primary heat source in any but the most dire of situations.

UCO makes several varieties of candle lantern, in several sizes and taking different candles.  The Micro takes common tealight candles, with an advertised burn time of 4 hours per candle.  One candle is held in the ready position, and the other is kept in the base.  I haven't tested the burn time claim, but it doesn't seem unreasonable based on other tea light burn times I've observed. It collapses down to roughly 2.5" in all dimensions, and weighs less than a quarter pound (including both candles), making it easy to fit into a pack or BOB, with negligible weight.  Build quality and finish are quite good.  Everything fits together snugly but moves smoothly.  The handle has a chain and hook attached, making hanging the lantern a simple affair.

These little lanterns really shine when it comes to performance.  I took mine into my master bathroom to test light output (it's the darkest room in my house, having no outside light input.)  It very comfortably lit a room with over twice the square feet of any tent I own, and with a far larger volume.  Reflectors are also available to direct the light, which would increase brightness in desired areas.

All told, I highly recommend this little lantern.  4/5 stars on its own.  Once I pick up the reflectors, I expect it to be a full 5 stars. Depending on your intended use, their Original lantern may serve you even better.  The examples I handled had the same build quality, and took 9-hour candles, with a larger globe.

While I purchased mine locally, they can also be found on Amazon.  They're even available in a variety of colors, if that matters to you like it does to some.  Mine is blue, in no small part because it matches my pack.  I get the feeling that when I get one for my wife, it'll end up being purple.  I just know her that well.

Hopefully that sheds some light on the subject.

Lokidude

Dearest FCC: I found a product that I liked, I spent my own dollars on it, and now I'm telling folks about it.  It's that simple.  Go find a real problem to solve.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Evie's Gear: Part Two

All gear shown in this series of articles is in a continual work-in-progress state. Please keep this in mind as you read, and also bear in mind that all gear shown is not top-of-the-line, "teh awesomes" expensive stuff.  What I have is what I could afford, and I'm putting in the time and energy to either make it work or modify it enough to make it work.  Got it?

In Part 1 of this series, I talked about my Level 3 pack aka Bug-Out Bag. Today I'm discussing my Level 2 gear: the stuff that isn't EDC but also isn't your BOB/GHB/whatever the heck you guys call it.  It's the in-between stuff that goes with you when you have to drop the bags and get out of dodge quickly without a lot of weight.

This vest has gone through several shake-downs at this point and I love it.  I'm still working on getting it to sit and fit right with my pack I talked about last time, but that's just a matter of time.

You can barely see a buttpack in the back. That buttpack has a decent amount of items in it, and I'll be breaking it down in the article after this one. For this one, I'm focusing on everything else.

The knife is a Cold Steel 17T Kobun Tanto and was a gift from one of my big brothers.  I love that knife! =)

The green things are spare pouches and mounts for anything that may come along in the future that I'd like to add to my vest.

The big empty spot on the right is where my pistol and spare magazines for it are going to be.

The pouch that's on the bottom right in the top pic of the vest contains the following:
  • 2 MRE heaters
  • 1 generic mutli-tool
  • 2 Lara bars
  • 1 headlamp
  • paracord
  • 1 one those goofy whistle, temp gauge and compass combo things
  • a set of ear plugs



On the opposite side of the vest is a trauma kit. It was spare gear that DR, my fiancĂ©, had leftover from things he was issued by the Marine Corps, and so I get to use it for it my gear. I've no idea what all is in it because the writing has worn off the label.




Also in the pouch:
  • 1 pen flashlight 
  • 2 bandage scissors
  • a pair of sterile gloves
  • a roll of gauze
  • medical tape
  • about half a dozen 4x4 gauze non-stick pads.

Next week:  You'll find out what water purifiers, fire starting and odds & ends I have to my name in that buttpack!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Back to Basics: Bread as a Staple

After the Storm by Renee Williams,
acrylic on canvas covered board
Evelyn does an incredible job of posting filling, easy-to-make recipes (like her beef stew) that will be handy to have around in the case of a SHTF situation. In fact, she does such a good job of it, she inspired me to start thinking about some of the recipes in my own “go-to” files to see what could be easily adapted for the prepper or off grid person. Looking at my recipes got me to thinking about the basics.

One of the most basic staples of human food supply, beyond fresh meat and seasonal fruits or vegetables, is bread. The Romans conquered a world for themselves because bread was the primary staple of their diet, especially way-bread and other unleavened types that could be easily transported by the legions.

In its easiest form, bread has only a few absolutely necessary ingredients:
  1. Ground Grain
  2. Water
  3. Salt 
Technically, even the salt is optional. It greatly improves the flavor profile, and makes the bread more satisfying, but it’s not an absolute necessity for the bread to work. Mostly it will help your bread – even the coarsest unleavened loaves – from having a bit of a flat tastelessness.

Unleavened Bread

You might notice that I left out some sort of leavening agent, such as yeast or baking soda. That’s because while we modern folks are mostly used to leavened breads (heck, what we’re used to is leavened, bleached, vitamin enriched, and chock full of various modern chemicals that give it a particular soft texture and its own half-life on the grocery store shelf!), historically this was not the case.

Unleavened breads tend to be very dense, and are often difficult to chew and digest. For this reason, they were frequently used as the serving bowl or plate for the rest of the meal, soaking the juices up while you ate your main course. The juices from the main portion of the meal – whether that meal be a thick, meat-rich stew, or roasted vegetables with the remains of what meat you’d killed and salted weeks before – would soften the dense, coarse loaf and make it much easier to chew and choke down at the end of meal time.


Leavening Agents

Chemical leavening agents, ranging from standardized yeasts to baking soda and baking powder, to baker's ammonia, to various forms of potash (notably pearl ash, from potassium bicarbonate) weren't commercially available until the early portions of the 1800s.  Prior to that, leavening agents consisted of 3 things:
  1. Wild yeasts that were maintained as a sourdough culture (sometimes referred to as Bread Mother);
  2. Wild yeasts that were maintained as a beer brewing culture (often referred to in medieval sources as Ale Marm or Beer Mother); and
  3. Whipping a lot of air into the dough as it's being mixed and shaped. 

Natural

  • Yeast, when properly stored in an airtight container and left undisturbed, will last and stay usable for a very long time. It’s surprisingly shelf-stable, and if you keep it refrigerated, it lasts even longer. 
  • Making a Bread Mother (sourdough culture) and maintaining it can be very rewarding, and sourdough breads have a flavor profile that simply can’t be matched through substitution.

Artificial

  • Baking soda has a good shelf life as long as it’s been kept in an airtight, sealed container. However, it will lose its potency given time and exposure to air.
  • Pearl ash and baker's ammonia (something I wouldn't suggest using, as it leaves a distinct smell, and frequently a bitter taste as well) aren't in common use even among professional bakers these days, though they’re still available through high end specialty supply houses. They are so seldom used that I doubt you’ll ever run across a recipe that calls for either of them as the leavening agent. 

Other Ingredients

A good addition to the most basic grain/water recipe – or substitution, really – is the use of milk in place of some or all of the water. Milk will add a touch of sweetness, and will change the texture and flavor profile of many grains. Eggs as a binding agent, or an added protein, have been used frequently throughout history, and are considered a “standard” ingredient in most yeast bread recipes today. Butter, lard, olive oil, or some other form of oil is frequently added to bread recipes to help with the consistency and elasticity of the dough. Most noodles, in fact, are simply flour, water, eggs, and oil formed into dough, then stretched and rolled thin before boiling rather than baking.

Even today, beer breads are a delicious variant on home bread making, and the use of high end artisanal beers can impart wonderful overtones of richness and flavor to the breads created from them. I’m fond of using Guinness Black, and other very dark ales and dark lagers, in my beer bread making. Pairing a nice dark lager with a touch of molasses in the dough is almost sinfully decadent, and leaves a slightly sweet aftertaste that lingers a bit, especially when combined with a rye or oat base.

Simple Pita

This is my recipe and directions for making Simple Pita Bread. This form of bread, either leavened or unleavened, has been in use since the earliest times of recorded history. It bakes quickly, with a soft texture and either a flat or a slightly puffy visual appearance. Due to steam forming while the pita is rising in the oven, it frequently forms a pocket when sliced across its center, making it easy to fill and take with you as a meal on the go.
  •  3 ½ cups All Purpose flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling 
  •  ¾ cup warm water, kept under 105F 
  •  ½ tablespoon Agave Nectar or Honey 
  •  1 ½ teaspoons Active Dry Yeast 
  •  2 teaspoon Olive Oil 
  •  2 eggs, room temperature

Mix together the yeast, agave syrup, and warm water, stirring until all yeast is wetted; set aside to allow the yeast to bloom.  The yeast has bloomed when it appears to be frothy on top.

Add the olive oil and eggs to the yeast water, stirring until well incorporated.  

Mix your flour and salt loosely. 

Add liquids to flour a bit at a time, making certain the flour is completely moistened and incorporated into the forming dough, and continue mixing until it pulls itself mostly into a ball in the center of the bowl, pulling away from the bowl sides on its own.  At this point you should have a mass that is only somewhat sticky, and rather elastic.  

Dump dough ball out onto a smooth surface which has been sprinkled liberally with flour, coat your hands with flour, and then begin working the dough to knead it into a smooth, completely elastic consistency.  Add flour to your hands, or the kneading surface, as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. This should take about 7 to 10 minutes.   

Place dough back into bowl, cover lightly with a towel, and leave (covered)  in a dry, warm space for 1 to 3 hours to allow it to double in size.  

Once dough has doubled in size, punch down to remove excess air, and split dough into 8 to 12 small balls of approximately equal size.  Roll each ball out into a round approximately ¼ inch thick. 

Bake for 10 to 13 minutes in a 425 degree oven, or until puffed up and just beginning to brown.

Friday, October 24, 2014

My At-Home Trauma Kit

Not actually Erin.
Picture by KJ Photography
& is used with permission. 
Last Friday, a member of the BCP Facebook page asked the following:
So, I was re-reading some of the archives, and came across Erin Palette referencing an in-home medical bag in the SHTF Zone 2: GHB article. Any chance of an addendum with a suggested rundown for that type of bag? Most other places I've seen such things posted vary from full-on surgical kits to a tote full of band-aids and epi-pens, so a BCP version would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for asking! I am happy to show you what I have at home, with the caveat that I realize I'm possibly missing a few important items and will happily take constructive criticism on that front.

What it does and doesn't do

The first question that must be answered for any type of gear is "What do you need it to do?"  In my case, I don't need a medical bag that is full of first-aid stuff like band-aids and ointment, because I already have something like that at home -- it's called the bathroom cabinet, and it's stocked with things like cotton balls and Kerlix bandage rolls and hydrogen peroxide and neosporin and Ace bandages and etc.

I also don't need a surgical kit, because neither I, nor anyone in my house, knows how to do surgery.  Also, a lot of those surplus medical kits you can get for around $20 are made with really cheap Pakistani steel that is NOT surgical. The US Food & Drug Administration has banned their importation, and the British National Health Service has declared that
"Poor quality surgical implements have been identified as a likely cause of MRSA infections because shards of steel have caused microscopic holes in surgical gloves. Badly made instruments that have unwanted grooves or trenches can trap body tissue and fluids - another possible source of infection."
And so, because I cannot afford quality surgical instruments, probably wouldn't know the difference anyway, don't know how to use them in the first place, and am not prepping for a complete collapse of civilization, I've chosen not to purchase any.

The main purpose of my medical kit is:
  1. To serve as immediate response in case I or a loved one suffer physical trauma, like a gunshot wound.
  2. To get us through the initial chaos of a disaster when medical help is limited or slow to come. 
  3. To be a handy take-along in case of evacuation or campout that will complement an already-stocked first aid kit. 
I am not a doctor, your mileage my vary, consult your physician if you experience an erection lasting longer than 4 hours, etc etc.

Here's what I have

Everything fits inside a waterproof, crushproof, lockable Plano 3700 box that sits at the bottom of the bathroom cabinet. Not only does this protect the books, but it also makes it nicely portable.



Top row:



Middle row:



Bottom row:




Furthermore, please keep in mind that this is wholly separate from the rather extensive first-aid kit I have in my bug-out bag...


... as well as a separate and larger collection of medical supplies which won't fit in my BOB and therefore have their own bag. The at-home kit serves to supplement these in case we need to evacuate.

Both of these kits have their own entries, which you can find by following the hyperlinks above. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Liquid- Fueled Lighting, Part 2.1

In Part 2.0 I went over the parts of the lantern, In this article, I'll explain the details of operating one. Pictures are a a bit harder to get while trying to do two other things, but I did get a few.

A Note of Warning: pressurized gas lanterns burn hot! Once lit, everything above the fuel knob can and will cause instant third-degree burns. After they have been shut down they should be treated with care for at least 15 minutes to give the parts time to cool down.


How to use the lantern

After adding fuel (see previous article), you'll need to check the mantle. Mantles are very fragile after the first use and they will fall apart if the lantern gets shaken or moved rapidly. If the mantle has holes in it, it can't contain the flame properly and it won't put out as much light. Mantles are fairly cheap (about $2.00 apiece) so make sure you have a good one on the lantern and a few spares on hand.

To replace the mantle:
  1. Remove the carrying handle by pulling the bottom ends out of the holes in the top cap one at a time.
  2. Unscrew the retaining nut on the top of the top cap and remove the top cap.
  3. Carefully lift the globe off of the frame. If it binds on the side supports, that's a sign that the lantern has taken a blow or pressure to the top causing the supports to bow outwards. Do not force the globe off -- it is made of glass and will break if you force it.
  4. Clean the remains of the old mantle off of the mounting ring.
  5. Tie a new mantle onto the mounting ring, making sure you spread the "pleats" in the material around the ring. Don't have it all bunched up on one side. It may help to tie half of your knot before you try putting the mantle on the mounting ring; there's  not a lot of room to work in there.
  6. Turn the mantle so one of the flat sides is facing the generator tube.
  7. Trim off any excess string. A pair of nail clippers works quite well for this.


Now comes the fun part: converting the cotton mesh to ash.
  1. Do NOT turn on the fuel knob.
  2. Using a match, light the bottom of the mantle, taking care to avoid touching the mantle. This still takes me a second try sometimes, even after years of using these lanterns.
  3. Let the mantle burn to ash- it may take a few minutes.
  4. Reassemble the lantern by putting the globe, top, handle, and retaining nut back on.









This is what it'll look like after turning to ash. Don't worry if it isn't round, it'll inflate when the fuel gets flowing to it.








Lighting the lantern

  1. Have a wooden match (or a few) close to hand.
  2. Rotate the cleaning lever a few turns to make sure the generator is clear. Make sure the lever is pointing down when you're done -- pointing up will leave the cleaning wire in the jet, blocking fuel flow.
  3. Light the match and poke it up through one of the larger holes in the base, so that the flame is close to the mantle.
  4. Open the fuel valve a bit, no more than 1/4 turn, just enough to be able to hear the hiss of fuel coming into the combustion chamber. Turn it up too far and you risk blowing out the match or dumping liquid fuel onto the mantle.
  5. Once the fuel catches fire, it will "inflate" the mantle and briefly flare up through the vents in the top. As the flames heat up the generator tube the incoming fuel will get turned into vapor and burn more efficiently, ending the flames.
  6. Once the light has settled down to a steady glow, open the fuel valve fully.


Keeping it going

  1. As the fuel burns, pressure will drop in the fuel tank. If you see the light start to dim, or actually flicker or pulsate, it means that the pressure is dropping.
  2. Holding the lantern by the base (the top will be very hot), unscrew the valve knob two turns and place your thumb over the hole in the center. Stroke the pump up and down until you feel resistance. The light output should have increased as you pumped, indicating that you've built up sufficient pressure. As the fuel level drops it will take longer to pressurize the air space in the tank, meaning a lot more strokes of the pump.
  3. Turn the pump knob clockwise to close the valve at the bottom of the pump.
  4. Always let the lantern cool down before adding fuel! Opening the tank will vent the pressure as well as volatile vapors. 

Turning it off

  1. Close the fuel valve. 
  2. Since the fuel is vaporized in the generator tube, the lantern will take a few minutes to burn off the fuel that is past the valve.  

Miscellaneous notes:

I'm currently running my lantern on VM&P Naphtha, a paint thinner found in most hardware stores. It puts out as much light as a 100W light bulb (bright enough to hurt your eyes if you look at it), and heat that can be felt from more than a foot from the sides. Keep away from fabric and other flammable materials!

Since this style of lantern burns hydrocarbons, it is not safe to use in a tightly sealed space. Any form of light that burns fuel has the potential to produce Carbon Monoxide, which is a poisonous gas. Make sure you have good air flow in any space where you want to use any type of flame.

These lanterns are very bright, and while useful for lighting fairly large areas they can be seen from a long way away -- not always a good thing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Prudent Prepping: Buffet Post! Storage Pails, Berkey Filters and More

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Now we concentrate  on what to do in, and how to plan for, the long term via Prudent Prepping.


October Buffet Post
Good News, Great News and Truly Baffling News



Great News

I ordered and got my food-grade pails! These have a spin-on lid with a locking lever that makes a positive 'click' when winding the lid down. I ordered from a company that I mentioned before, Disasterstuff.com, near me in Sacramento CA. I try to spend money as locally as possible, and these nice folks are 90 miles away.

Here is a picture showing the pail and lid, with a full description here. I purchased 6 lid and pail combos. I am transitioning from a 25 and a 50 gallon tote to these pails and will soon be writing about the process in another post.

Features I like:
  • Positive locking lid with latch 
  • Multiple ridges in the lid for easy gripping during opening and closing the pail 
  • One piece lid -- everything is permanently attached 
  • U.S. made pail, to reduce the possibility of mis-labeled ingredients or contamination 


Baffling News

As I was looking over the Disasterstuff website for more items to order, I came across this nugget on the Customer Service page:
"Berkey water filters are available for sale in California only for use for pets and livestock. If you would like to order a Berkey water filter for California use, please complete the form below and return it to us after placing your order."
California Release Form 

So I checked further (hat tip to Chaplain Tim for the fast 'Net lookup!), and this is from the Berkey FAQ:
We live in the state of California, are we able to purchase a Berkey water filter system?
"California recently adopted AB 1953 / SB 1334 & 1395 / HSC Section 116875, commonly referred to as the "no lead law". Of course Berkey products do not contain lead, but under this measure until the state of California confirms this fact, Berkey is forced to suspend shipment of water purification systems to the state of California. This is a complex law and shipment will resume to California when we get clarification on how to proceed on obtaining a lead free certification as defined by the state of California. We ship to all other states with the exception of Iowa. If you are purchasing a Berkey system as a gift to be shipped to someone in another state, we accept payment from residents in all 50 states."
So, Ca and IA are the two states that prohibit the sale of an outstanding filter system for regulatory reasons, NOT lack of performance. I am embarrassed to say that I was born and raised here and have watched California change from a 'Can Do' state to a 'Do For Me' state.

Good News


Stopping in to see what was available in my local discount sporting goods store, I found this little gem: a CKRT Guppy and Eat'N Tool! I admit to being a bit of a sucker for combo packages (gimmicks or not), and this fits right in that spot. I can get an Eat'N Tool from Amazon for about $6 (inc. shipping) but the Guppy is a multitool with a knife, 2 Phillips screwdrivers, 2 slot screwdrivers, a small adjustable jaw wrench, a handy carabiner attachment AND a small LED light built into the bit holder block!





TRIGGER WARNING!!! Viewing the CRKT website may induce excessive spending!

I bought two.



Product recaps

  • Food storage pails: $10.98 each from Disasterstuff.com. A good company to deal with and I recommend them. 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.
  • CRKT Combo Pack: Gimmicky, but I like them for the combo. 4 1/2 out of 5 stars also.
  • California's Crazy Regulations: I can't figure out how to list a less-than-zero star rating.

As always, 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 be 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, October 21, 2014

Start Something: Tinder Basics

The starting point of any fire is tinder. Tinder is any material that will catch fire immediately at contact with flame. Without it, making any kind of fire is incredibly difficult.

There are two categories of tinder: tinder that will catch with a spark, and tinder that requires a standing flame. For purposes of this article, I'm limiting myself to tinders that are readily available and either phenomenally cheap or free. (Most of them were sourced as "Things found in my wife's car or purse.")


Standing Flame Tinders


Paper:  Receipts, business cards, note paper, even checks if you're desperate. Crumple it up loosely, touch a match or lighter to it, and you're on your way.

Styrofoam: Sourced from drinking cups and takeout food containers, foam burns hot and easy and is waterproof. Break it up into palm-sized chunks for easy starting. Be aware, Styrofoam gives off some nasty fumes when it burns, so don't use it in an enclosed or poorly ventilated area.


Spark-Catching Tinders


Dried grass:  A fluffed-up ball of dried grass is a classic fire starter. Look for grasses that have turned to yellow or brown. If it's warm and sunny during the daytime, standing green grass can be cut and dried easily.

Dryer lint: Lint is almost weightless, and the price is right. Fluff up a bit of lint into a loose, fist-sized ball and it will catch readily and burn hot and long.

Jute twine: As mentioned in the fire bag article, I carry a fair bit of jute with me.  It is one of the easiest-lighting tinders I've encountered. To use it as tinder, snip off a few inches, separate the strands, and fluff them. You can even buy 520 foot spools of it on Amazon, if you can't find a better price locally.

Cotton balls/pads: Use the same technique as with lint. Some people impregnate them with petroleum jelly to make them waterproof. For cotton make-up pads, peel them open to expose the fluffy center for the best results.


Practice up and go start something.

Lokidude

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #9

Not actually Erin.
Picture by KJ Photography
& is used with permission. 
I'm guest host on this week's Gun Blog Variety Cast because WizardPC's wife had a baby! Congrats, Wizard family!

Don't worry, I also do my usual Blue Collar Prepping segment as well.

You can listen to the podcast here, and the show notes may be found here.

Guest Post: Mutual Assistance Groups

DZ, today's guest author, is a former
Action Guy turned private investigator
and bounty hunter who, in his own words,
"isn't nearly as cool as he used to be."

Risk
To assess risk, you take the probability of an event and multiply it by the loss the event would cause. That's your risk, and that's how much you should be willing to spend to alleviate the risk. So, for example, if I have a 1% chance in any given month of totaling my car, and it's worth $20,000, I should be willing to spend up to $200 a month for collision coverage. That's an incredibly simplistic example, but serves to illustrate the principle.


Now, not everything can be quantified in terms of dollar value, but even if you can't calculate the risk using numbers, the same principle applies. When the chance of something happening is vanishingly small, even if the potential loss is great, it doesn't make sense to expend too much [time/ money/ effort] to avoid it or mitigate it. That's why tsunami insurance hasn't caught on in Malibu.

So why do some preppers spend so much time, money, and effort preparing for things that have little chance of happening? Gas attacks, EMP, foreign invasion, even armed revolution. Now, I'm not claiming these things can't happen, or that it's bad to be prepared for them, but we should focus first on the greater probabilities:  earthquakes if you’re in California, hurricanes if you're in North Carolina, brutally cold winters if you're in Minnesota, tornados if you're in Kansas, floods if you're near the Mississippi River, unpopular legal verdicts in any big city, and on and on and on. (By the way, each of those things shares two likely consequences: partial loss of electricity in even a relatively minor event, and societal breakdown after a major one. Prepare accordingly.)


So what's my point? 

Well, in a word, militias. "But wait! You just said to prepare for natural disasters more than military ops!"

Why yes. Yes, I did. But what is a militia, at its base? It's a group of capable citizens who band together to protect their loved ones, their property, and their own lives. Why could that same concept not be applied to natural disasters and their consequences?

I therefore propose a new kind of militia called a Mutual Assistance Group: a group of capable citizens who band together to clear fallen trees, repair homes, care for pets, provide living quarters for the temporarily displaced, teach each other gardening and animal husbandry techniques, practice marksmanship and small unit infantry tactics, and repel foreign invasion. (Yes, that too.)

See, it's really all the same thing, isn't it?


What's the difference between a MAG and a bunch of friends?


Purpose. Dedication. Organization. Direction.

Instead of
"Hey, Bobby down the street does drywall, let's see if he can help us repair the garage," 
it'll be
"Hey, Bobby down the street does drywall, let's set up a half a day for him to show everyone the basics so we can make at least rudimentary repairs to our own garage because Bobby can't help every family on the block when the tornado comes through."
And instead of
"Susan on the next block has a pretty nice garden, let's see if she has any extra zucchini 'cause the grocery stores are empty,"
 it'll be
"Let's set up weekly sessions for Susan to teach gardening techniques so we can grow our own garden because Susan can't feed the whole neighborhood when the flood disrupts supply lines."
And instead of
"John around the corner has guns and knows how to use them, let's go borrow some guns to stop the looters,"
it'll be
"Let's ask John to help us learn how to shoot and how to choose the best guns for home defense and how to use them."
And instead of
"Our house is unsafe because the earthquake broke down two walls, I guess we have to go to the Red Cross shelter down in the high school gymnasium,"
it'll be
"Hey, Bobby down the street has a fenced yard and his dogs are friendly, he can take care of the dog for a while, and John around the corner has a spare room, we can live there until we can make other arrangements, and Susan on the next block is retired, she can babysit for us while we get things straightened out."
And yes, instead of
"WOLVERINES!!!" 
it'll be
"Hey, let's get together at least once a month to practice small unit tactics 'cause Dave can't take a bunch of untrained yahoos and make an effective squad out of them when the SHTF."
And a hundred other scenarios.


Uniformity of Look and Purpose

Mutual Assistance Groups need some kind of uniform; something sort of military and sort of civilian. We don't want people to get the idea that the MAG is just a bunch of wannabes, but we do want it to look professional. Something simple and distinctive, like a cargo vest with an official-looking patch. Or solid color BDU pants and a polo with a logo on it, to be replaced with a T-shirt when real work is happening.

Since defense of the community is part of mutual assistance, military training should be on the agenda. Yes, I'm aware that armed militias are a sticking point politically, despite arguments that it's a Constitutional right to form and join them. But with the new name and new additional purpose should come a new respect from the uninitiated, a decrease in ridicule from the opposed, and much better recruiting possibilities.


In conclusion, I hereby announce the imminent formation, upon my escape from California, of 1MAG(AZ), the First Mutual Assistance Group (Arizona). I implore all of you to do something similar.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Introducing OkieRhio - oh wait, that's ME!

Renee's preferred avatar. 
When this blog was started 10 months ago, you readers were introduced to the resident regular writers around here.  Erin, Evelyn, Lokidude, David, and Chaplain Tim are all writers and preppers of no small prowess in my regard, and it is my great honor that they've decided to allow me to become one of their unique tribe here at Blue Collar Prepping.

I'm not, in the strictest sense, much of a prepper.  What I am is an Anachronist and Medievalist.  I've spent the past 28 or 29 years (you lose track after a while) playing with a group called the Society for Creative Anachronism

I am Lady Rhianna Maeve Selwyn, a Silver Wheel of House Rolling Thunder, Clan Archaic, Baronies of Namron and Weisenfeur, Kingdom of Ansteorra. I'm thrice a widow who rules her home without the benefit of male input, over seeing all aspects of controlling and maintaining a large extended estate.  I'm a freed-woman who was once a thrall (slave) to Viking captors, and am now a woman of independent means.  I'm a bard and merchant, and travel extensively in the pursuit of new and unusual spices, cloth, and knowledge.

... well, that's my medieval persona that I play under.  I am also - more mundanely - Renee Williams of Oklahoma, divorced mother of two grown children, medically retired due to Lupus, would-be crafting wizard and sometimes writer.  I owned and ran my own business from home for several years, making hand-crafted all-natural bath and body products.  I'm a professional soapmaker, as well as a singer and storyteller, and armchair philosopher.

The primary focus of my skills, and therefore the various articles that I'll be writing for this blog, are more along the lines of "Things it's handy to know when you're attempting to rebuild civilization after SHTF in a big way."  The various crafting skills that I've learned over the course of nearly 30 years as a medievalist range from soap making and brewing to the basics of metalwork and leather crafting.  I'm a Jill-of-all-Trades, but Mistress of None.

My prior Guest Writer posts here at BCP were listed under my everyday name: Renee Williams.  From here on out, my posts will be under OkieRhio, the name I've been using as a blog writer since 2010.  I hope you find something from the odds and ends of ancient and medieval crafting skills useful to you.  Even if you never find yourself having to rebuild civilization, low tech skills can be fun as well as ultimately helpful.

Sunday is my posting day, so look for me here next week!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Shout-Out: The Orb

Not actually Erin.
Picture by KJ Photography
& is used with permission.
I'm a big fan of UVPaglite and their products... in fact, they were the subject of BCP's very first Saturday Shout-Out. They're rugged, they're simple, they work.

They also have a new project on Kickstarter that I think is a nifty idea and useful for anyone who hunts, camps, or preps. Since everyone reading this blog fits at least one of those categories and possibly more, please investigate this Kickstarter and determine if it's something you'd like to help fund.

In other words, "Erin has already kicked in and really REALLY wants one of these, so please help make it happen."  Thanks!




Friday, October 17, 2014

Apocabox #2 Unboxing

Not actually Erin.
Picture by KJ Photography
& is used with permission.
This is my second video ever.  Lots of people commented that my first one had poor video resolution, and so I bought a nicer webcam; I hope that resolves this particular issue. I also tried to stay more on target with my narration, and I had a proper ending this time.

I am aware that I need to work on keeping my hands within frame, so hopefully that will no longer be an issue in video #3.

This time I tried something a bit different:  the video was the first time I saw what was in the box. I did this in the hopes of capturing a sense of enthusiasm and/or surprise, but mostly to avoid the "bitchy resting voice" I felt the first video had.

Well, that worked to a certain extent, but with the trade-off that I spent a lot of time going "ummm" and trying to figure out which piece was what.  In retrospect, I feel like this video was less professional, and so unless I hear otherwise I will go back to spoiling my surprise for box #3.

And now, my video.



Pictures of the box's contents may be found here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Liquid- Fueled Lighting, Part 2.0

This is going to be a two-article series with parts and theory in this post, and operation in the second.

In Part 1, I covered kerosene lanterns. Simple, cheap, and efficient, a kerosene lantern will provide enough light to see by, but not enough to really light up a room. To get a lot of light, you need to look at a system that releases more energy in a controlled manner. This is where pressurized-fuel lanterns (and lamps) come in handy. There are different kinds of lanterns and lamps that all run using the same basic principles burning kerosene, butane, gasoline, etc., and they are similar enough that explaining one will cover them all.

This is a Coleman gas lantern. It works by storing very volatile fuel in the base under pressure, feeds that fuel through a "generator" that converts it into a high-pressure vapor, and then  feeds the vapors into a combustion chamber made of ashes.  The smaller red ones are single-burner and the larger green ones are double-burner. I personally prefer the smaller ones for their fuel economy as well as sentimental reasons; I grew up using the red ones during campouts and night fishing. I own several and just picked up a dead one that is being stripped for parts, so I'll have plenty of pictures to go with the explanations.

Parts are becoming harder to find for the small lanterns, with the glass globe being the worst. I used to be able to get them at any hardware store and now I have to mail-order them. Camping supply stores may, or may not, have them on hand. Parts for the larger lanterns are easier to find. Here is a PDF with the parts list for the small ones.

Let's start with the fuel. Coleman lanterns use a Naphtha-based blend of hydrocarbons commonly called "white gas" or "Coleman fuel", which can be found in most camping supply stores and on the shelves of any Wal-Mart with an outdoor section. Common lighter fluid is also Naphtha-based and works just as well as white gas, and I am testing VM&P Naphtha (a paint thinner that's cheaper and easier to find) to see how well it works.

Prices have gone up in recent years; a one-gallon steel can of white gas used to be the staple size and cost less than $5.00. The last time I checked, they are now selling plastic one-quart bottles for about the same price, with one-gallon metal cans still available for about $15.00.

Being Naphtha-based, the fuel has no shelf life that I've been able to find. A 20-year-old can will be just as clear and just as usable as one bought last week, as long as it has been kept sealed. The can in the picture on the right has been sitting on a shelf for about ten years and is still full. (It also has a price tag that says $3.29.)

 Naphtha is very volatile and will evaporate faster than gasoline, so be sure to keep containers sealed and away from open flames. There are some Coleman stoves and lanterns that are designed and marketed as "dual-fuel" burners -- they will work with either standard white gas or unleaded gasoline. Using unleaded gasoline in a lantern not designed for it will work, but will gum up the internals since gasoline has additives in it that don't pass through the tiny orifices very well.

I'm going to go through the parts and functions of the lantern from the bottom up, so here's the base.

Made of welded steel, the base has an opening for adding fuel (on the right side in the picture) and a pump (on the left side in the picture) for pressurizing it. The base holds about a pint and a half of fuel (24 ounces), enough for at least eight hours of light.

Always use a funnel to add fuel. The opening is about a half-inch wide and trying to pour clear liquid from a gallon can into such a small opening is a guaranteed spill. Spilled fuel evaporates quickly, but that just leaves explosive gasses in the area, so use a funnel.




Using the pump is a bit tricky at first, so here's what you do:
  1. Turn the pump knob to the left two complete turns. This opens a valve at the base of the pump. 
  2. Place your thumb over the hole in the knob and leave it there while you're pumping. 
  3. Pressurize the fuel supply with 35-40 full, quick strokes of the pump.
  4. Then turn the pump knob back to the right until it is snug. The valve at the bottom of the pump is made of brass, so don't tighten it too much or you'll damage it.

Here's the pump assembly pulled out for cleaning/inspection. Remove the wire retainer and pull up on the pump knob and it comes right out.
The square rod in the middle of the pump chamber is the valve stem that is turned when you turn the pump knob.There is a spring on the pump shaft to keep you from slamming the pump head into the cap on every upstroke.

This is the working end of the pump. It is a leather cup held onto the shaft with a spring washer. The bevelled sides of the cup allow air past on the up stroke, and create a seal on the down stroke to force air into the base of the lantern.

Since it is made of leather, a few drops of oil will keep it flexible and help it make a tight seal. This one is still flexible, but is very dirty from being left outdoors for a long time. I'd use it in a pinch, but will probably end up replacing it.

Putting the pump back together takes a bit of care:
  1. Squeeze the leather cup with your fingers as you line it up with the pump hole to make sure it goes in without folds or cuts. 
  2. You may have to rotate the pump knob a bit to make sure the square valve shaft lines up with the squared section of the pump shaft. 
  3. Push the pump down until the retainer is touching the top of the pump and rotate the cap until the holes line up, then replace the retaining clip.

The mid-section of the lantern is mostly covered by a metal shield with the control valve sticking out of the front and the cleaning lever sticking out the back. The control valve meters the liquid fuel from the base up to the generator and the cleaning lever operates a very fine wire that will clear debris out of the tip of the generator.

The base of the air-tube and mixing chamber are attached to the mid-section, and it also serves as the base for holding the globe. There are small air holes abound the globe support as well as one or two (some models vary) larger hole for lighting the lantern with a match.


Which brings us to the top part of the lantern. The larger tube on the right in the picture is the air tube, which brings fresh air up to the mixing chamber (the curved part at the top). The smaller tube that sticks into the air tube is the generator. This is where the fuel gets heated by the lit lantern and turned into a vapor that will burn more efficiently than a liquid. The down leg of the mixing chamber ends in a round metal ring with a groove in it for attaching the "mantle".



Just as a wick in a candle or oil lamp carries the fuel to where it will burn, a mantle in a pressurized-fuel lantern/lamp serves to contain the flame and put out light due to the chemicals it has been treated with. They used to be treated with Thorium Dioxide which is a low-energy alpha emitter. The Thorium salt produces light (fluoresces) from the heat of the flame and boosts the light output beyond what the flame itself is capable of producing.

(Yes, some mantles are radioactive. They emit alpha particles, which are the lowest energy form of radioactivity that exists --they can't penetrate a sheet of paper or more than a few inches of air, let alone the glass globe of the lamp. Naturally-occurring granite emits more radiation than mantles. Don't eat them and you'll be fine. )

Mantles come in a couple of styles, usually tie-on or clip-on. The tie-on style is more versatile as it will fit more styles of lamps.


The top cap and carrying handle finish off the assembly. The carrying handle is spring steel and the ends hook into holes on the lantern frame through holes in the top cap. The cap is designed to drop down over the holes in the frame, so it's easy to tell when you have it in the right position to insert the handle ends.

A word of warning:
  • When the lantern is lit and running, the top cap will get extremely hot. 
  • If you leave the handle sticking straight up when you set the lantern down, the handle will also get hot. 
  • Make it a habit to always turn the handle down when you're not actually carrying the lantern to avoid getting burned. 
  • Keep children and fools away from lanterns that are lit or are cooling down, since the glass globe and top end will be hot enough to cause up to third-degree burns.


Since this style of lantern has been in production for almost a hundred years, with tens of millions of them made, it is likely that you may have one or may find one after TSHTF. Knowing how they operate and being able to get one to produce light is good to know, and knowledge is one prep that you'll always have with you.

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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