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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Ersatz Tires

Flat tires aren't as common as they used to be (due to better materials and construction), but they still happen at the worst times. Since spare tires don't get used very often they tend to get ignored, which means that there's a good possibility that your spare is going to be flat when you need it.

The “temporary” spare, AKA “the doughnut” that comes with most cars, is there to get you to the nearest repair shop. Most of them have a very limited life, usually under 100 miles. Doughnuts are also smaller and narrower than the standard tire, so they will affect the handling of your car when in use and put a lot of stress on the differentials of vehicles because of the difference in size (smaller tires have to spin faster to cover the same distance).

Since 2009, some car makers have decided to save even more weight and space by deleting even the doughnut spare, replacing it with a “repair kit” that consists of a can of sealant and a compressor. The repair kits are useless if the tire has anything other than a small hole in the tread, but they're cheap and save weight (and therefore gas). Basically, they've started shipping cars with a can of Fix-a-Flat instead of a spare tire.

So what do you do if you have a flat tire and your spare is dead? 
Or what if you have two flat tires at the same time (Been there and one that - got forced into a curb that took out both tires on one side of my truck)? 
  1. Look around and see if you can borrow a spare from someone. This may sound strange to urban people, but rural folks do tend to help each other and there's always a chance that you'll be able to find something that will fit your car. 
  2. If you're in a SHTF situation, salvaging a wheel and tire from an abandoned car might be your only option to get mobile again.  Unfortunately, not all tires are created equal; fortunately, this article will tell you what need to look for:

Tire Size
For emergency use, this is less important than you'd expect. Since the typical doughnut spare is a lot smaller than a regular tire, you can use any tire that will fit inside your wheel-well, and running smaller (a 14-inch tire replacing a 16-inch tire) won't be much different than using a doughnut.

Going larger or wider means you'll need to check the clearance on your fenders and steering components; you don't want a tire rubbing on anything. Here'show to read the information on the side of a tire.

Watch the weight rating! You'll want something that is rated for at least as much as the tire you're replacing, especially on trailers.

Number and Spacing of Lugnuts
Most standard wheels will have 4, 5, 6 or 8 holes for the lugnuts. 4- and 5-hole wheels are common on cars, 6- and 8-hole wheels are more often found on trucks and SUVs. Ford did make a 7-hole wheel for a few years on their F250 pickups, and there are some trailers and ATVs that use a 3-hole wheel, but those are the exceptions. Obviously, you're going to need something with the same number of holes as your regular wheels.
Spacing is a bit tricky, but there is a standard way of measuring it. The picture to the left shows how to measure your bolt pattern. This needs to be an exact match, but as long as you're working with two vehicles that are similar in size and age, you should be able to find a suitable wheel.

Center Hole Size
The hole in the center of the wheel is for the wheel hub, and there are two general types of wheels:

Hub-centric: where the weight of the vehicle is borne by the hub of the wheel. This style is common on cars, and these normally have a raised lip on the brake disk/drum around the hub that the wheel slides over. This needs to be an exact fit since the lug bolts are probably not going to be strong enough to carry the weight, and changing sheared lugs is a royal pain.

Lug-centric: where the weight of the vehicle is borne by the lugnuts. This style is more common on trucks and larger SUVs with 8-hole wheels. The raised lip is absent, and the hub hole diameter is less important. As long as the hole is big enough for the hub to go through, it'll work. If you have a 4WD with locking hubs, you'll know how big some of these holes can be.

Depth of Wheel
Unless you're playing with custom wheels this isn't much of a problem, but finding a donor wheel with the proper depth to give you room for the brake parts is important. Here'sa good link that explains the depth measurements. In a SHTF situation, I'd try flipping the wheel around and putting it on backwards (with the outside of the rim towards the vehicle) just to get moving again.

If money's tight and/or you really need to get out of Dodge
I know of at least one young man who buys temporary spares from a local junkyard for next to nothing and runs them on all four wheels of his compact car. He has to change them every week or so, and they are horrible for traction, but they get him to work and back. He's saving for a better car and doesn't want to dump $400 into tires for something he's going to be trading off in a few months.

Where there's a will, there's a way.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Prudent Prepping: Semi-Monthly Roundup

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

This is my way to wrap up several different ideas too short to make into a complete and separate post.

First up is a gift from the Master Chief who, after retiring from his last job, now has plenty of time to shop on the 'Net. He has given me several things, but none as small as this:

Nelson Rigg CB-PK30 Black Compact Backpack
From the Amazon entry:
  • The Nelson Rigg CB-PK30 Compact Backpack allows you to gain 30L of storage whenever needed
  • It packs down small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, giving you extra cargo capacity without all the bulk
  • Large enough to carry a full face motorcycle helmet, basketball, or a day's clothes, it's perfect for day-to-day use, day trips, vacation, travel, day hikes, school, camping, or shopping
  • Constructed from strong Tri-Max nylon with embroidery style stitching for added strength
  • Ultra lightweight with an integrated compact storage bag makes it easy to carry anywhere you go
This is not replacing my existing GHB; it's going to be the extra 'Share The Care' bag if the worst happens and I find someone in need of a backpack.
  • It weighs nothing and takes up almost no space.
  • The straps are thin and prone to curl into themselves with some weight in the bag -- in other words, exactly what you'd expect in a bag like this. 
  • The nylon(ish) material is definitely NOT waterproof or even water-resistant, but with a medium trash bag used as a liner, it should do in an emergency. 
As this is a secondary bag, none of these are deal-breakers. Plus, the price (free) was fantastic!

Baby Prepper Progress
I've mentioned that I have a new prepping group and my friends are getting serious about disaster preparedness. What's happening so far?

  • GHB's have been purchased and basics like clothes, small amounts of food and bottled water have been added.
  • Approximately half the group comes from places that have regular economic or natural disasters, so the idea of having extra food on hand is normal. Figuring out how and where to store everything is the next step.
  • Selecting Rally Points A, B, and maybe C is our next goal, since several of us travel quite far and in different directions on a daily basis. No one wants to be left out, and there could be several days' delay if the Big One (earthquake) hits us. After two in Mexico this month, we could be looking at a repeat of 1985-89 here in California.

Everything is proceeding much better than I expected, since I follow the old saying, "Plan for the worst but expect better".

The Takeaway
  • I have wonderful friends that do the nicest things for me. I'm truly blessed
  • There's nothing like an example to show people who you are. Luckily, lately I've been a good one.
  • Having everyone 'on-board' and working in the same direction for a common goal feels great.

The Recap

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, September 19, 2017

Firearm Records

You should have a record of pretty much anything with a serial number, but for now I'll concentrate specifically firearms.

I know of several cases in which firearms were stolen in a burglary (one involved a personal friend - in his case, guns from his father and grandfather) and there were no descriptions or recorded serial numbers, which meant about zero chance of ever getting those guns back. This happens a lot, so don't let it happen to you.

Make records, and make copies. In these days of digital cameras and flash drives and writable CD/DVDs, there’s no reason not to use them. My suggestions on firearms:
  1. Make a list of important information for each firearm such as brand, model, serial number, other identifying marks or numbers, etc.
  2. Take a picture of each firearm. If there are identifying/proof features on both sides, take one of each side.
  3. Label each picture as to what it is. Either put the serial number in the picture name, or keep the list together with the pictures. Preferably both.
  4. Make a hard copy of the list to keep with the other media, just in case something happens to the electronic copies. Paper and ink are cheap. 
  5. Make at least two copies: one to keep with you, preferably in a fire-resistant storage box or safe, and one in a secure off-site location (with relatives, safety deposit box, whatever).
Flash drives or other re-writable media are great; you can update them at any time. Paper records will have to be printed again when things change; again, paper and ink are cheap.

Don’t store your only record on your computer! In fact, you shouldn't leave any copy on the computer; once you copy anything on it to the storage media, securely wipe the files on the PC (laptop, tablet, whatever), just to be safe in case of viruses.

These records are good for more than just theft; if there's a fire, or flood, or a small SMOD, you'll need to be able to show the insurance people just what you have. These directions will also work on other things, like your computer or TV or power tools. But if, for some reason, you don't have an inventory of everything, at least make one of your firearms.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

GunBlog VarietyCast #161 - We Are But Mad North-North-West

Erin's neighborhood was supposed to get its power restored this weekend. Now it's been pushed back until Tuesday next week.

  • Beth says it's always the right time to talk to children about firearms, and the new book "Safety On" by Yehuda Remer can help you with that.
  • A second suspect has been identified in a NW Charlotte homicide, and good news! He's not quite as awful as the suspect they have already charged!
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • To be, or not to be: that is the question. Or perhaps the question is "to stay, or not to stay." And when the hurricane blows southerly, Miguel knows a hawk from a handsaw.
  • Our Main Topic is the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showing that more Americans than ever have a gun in their homes.
  • Tiffany covers a few of the Every Day Carry travel considerations that aren't usually discussed in the average concealed carry permit class.
  • Erin left the hurricane behind. But she has preps in place, so why evacuate? She shares her thoughts on avoiding troubles as a valid prepping strategy.
  • The Joyce Foundation Shell Group, States United, has cooked up a “Video Game” to oppose concealed carry Reciprocity, and gets the reaction from alleged Real People™. Weer'd has the audio.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program.

Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -

Why Evacuate When You Have Preps?
As I write this, I’m comfortably ensconced at Castello Sorrentino, enjoying the delightfully cool North Carolina weather. The reason I’m able to  enjoy it so much is because Hurricane Irma largely missed my part  of Florida, contenting herself with knocking down trees and power lines. This means I no longer have to worry about the safety of my family or the integrity of our house, and my evacuation has become a vacation. 

Despite all this, though. I’m still having trouble shaking the feeling that I am now 2 for 2 at being a gigantic pussy when it comes to hurricanes. After all, what kind of prepper am I if I chose not to reply upon those preps, but instead to run away at the first opportunity?

Friend of the show Josh made a great point last week when he posted this to the BCP Facebook group:
It occurs to me that training with a firearm and preparing for disasters are very similar.
In both cases you are gathering the tools and knowledge to handle a situation if it gets bad. In both cases your education tells you to leave the area as soon as it seems likely things actually will go bad.
And I believe this with 100% conviction. Just like concealed carriers 
believe "You win every gunfight you avoid", we preppers believe that we survive every disaster we aren’t present for. Sure, you might be able to out-draw or out-shoot a bad guy, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get through the experience unscathed. You might get hurt anyway, or be arrested and tried for murder by an overzealous prosecutor, or be harassed by the media and hated by your community. 

Similarly, if you rely on your preps to get you through a disaster you could have avoided, at the very least you’ve consumed those preps and need to replace them. Progressing up the scale of awful, take a moment to realize that “surviving a disaster” and “surviving a disaster unscathed” are two completely different things. If you’re crippled, but you lived, then technically you’ve survived…

Now I understand that there are some situations where people cannot evacuate. Perhaps you have a family member who cannot be moved, and evacuating without them would be the same as abandoning them. Perhaps you don’t have a car or the funds required to get out. Perhaps you have a job as an emergency responder, and it’s your duty to help those who didn’t leave. In all of these cases, I understand why you didn’t go, and I don’t fault you for your choice. 

But what gets me are the people who have the ability to leave but choose not to evacuate -- like my parents, who say “We evacuated once back in 2003. We were stuck in traffic, and the dogs were hot, and we couldn’t find a hotel that would take us and our pets. We’re just going to stay behind.”  To me, this is like saying “We’d rather risk death than be inconvenienced by an evacuation.” I don’t get this. I just DON’T. It’s like hearing the anti-vaccine folks talk and realize that they’re saying “Having a dead child is preferable to having one with autism.”

So I just leave at the first sign of impending doom, because the best prep is not gear, not training, but the ability to get yourself out of dangerous situations - and the best way to get out of dangerous situations is not to get into them in the first place. 

This is why I’m up here in North Carolina, enjoying lovely weather and power and internet, while my family are sweltering in summer Florida heat without air conditioning. 

Yup. They really saved themselves some inconvenience, didn’t they?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Post-Irma Erin

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I realized that it's been a while since I posted a blog update on how I'm doing. I've been posting updates on Facebook, of course, but not everyone who reads this blog follows me there.

Short version: We're fine. We're all fine here, now, thank you. How are you?

Long version: I left Florida on Friday shortly after noon, and after twelve hours of driving -- most of which seemed to be spent in stop-and-go traffic in South Carolina, regardless of which road (interstate, US road, state road, surface streets) I took -- I ended up in North Carolina to spend the weekend with partner in podcasting Sean Sorrentino. I did some dry fire practice with Sean, met some really cool people, and then left Tuesday morning because I feel that guests,like fish, begin to stink after three days.

However, power was still out at home. It's not scheduled to be restored until this weekend, and so I'd be bored silly while sweating my bits off if I returned -- and the condition of some of the roads in Florida was still iffy -- so I decided to head west and hang out with some people in Tennessee because they'd indicated they would be happy to host me. So right now I'm in eastern TN through the weekend, hopefully heading home on Saturday or Sunday.

I've been speaking to my family every day over dad's cellphone. Mom, dad, dogs, house, they're all fine, just bored and hot. They can't even take showers to cool off because while they have water pressure, there's no power to run the electric sewer pump, so they need to be careful or else they'll cause the buried septic tank to overflow, which happened back in 2003ish. Believe me, no power + Florida heat + sewage smell = YUCK.

The house didn't take any damage from Irma so far as we can tell, but all the food in the refrigerator has gone bad, and likely all the stuff in the freezer as well. Fortunately there's enough canned food to feed everyone in the house. Yay preps!

Dad is currently in the hospital right now, and trust me, that's a good thing. He's been fighting pneumonia for about 2 weeks, and just before Irma he was diagnosed with COPD. He also has a tendency to complain and get in mom's way, so him being out of the house is good for mom's sanity, and because he's in a place with air conditioning and medical attention, it's good for him as well.

So as these things go, we were remarkably lucky. I still maintain that bugging out was the right choice of action, because (if for no other reason) I'm comfortable and they're not.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Prudent Prepping: New Recruits

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

Some people plan things well in advance, and some need a virtual kick in the pants to start preparing for emergencies. The recent hurricanes have been starting points for several conversations about prepping for the past two weeks.

Starting the Conversation
I never start with telling people that I'm a Prepper, but after talking about the local weather, the hurricanes, or the big earthquake in Mexico, I ask "What have you done to make yourself ready?" I usually hear that there has been little thought given to what could happen and how they will react.

One recent conversation started over lunch when I commented on the team logo on a sales rep's jacket. Their home state gets bad weather (snow, ice storms and tornadoes) and a comment was made about how scary earthquakes are and how freaked out having the building shake makes them feel. I was asked how I feel about earthquakes, and I said they don't bother me nearly as much as tornadoes, since you can't see earthquakes coming your way from the next county. It turns out that the rep's family had a 'storm room' all set up on the chance there was a bad storm. I asked the rep about any plans for a similar amount of preparation here, and was met with a blank state.

I gave them the link to the Get Home Bag posts here, with a suggestion to look at the First 72 Hours post at the top of any of my posts and then look up everyone else who writes here.

I also suggested a book I've had for a while:

The Disaster Preparedness Handbook 
From the description:

"This is the essential guide every family should have, study, and keep handy, in case the unthinkable should occur. Shelter. First Aid. Protection.With this book you can outline your survival plan."

Information is broken down into easy-to-read sections, with a space to write your own notes provided. While this is not the most detailed book on disaster planning, it is enough information in small bites for a young person doing their very first solo living, so that making and following a plan will be doable.

I was surprised to see how excited the rep became reading the BCP posts. They mentioned that their family still in the Midwest were also concerned with earthquakes.When I see them either this week or next, I expect to pass this book on and hear which items have been purchased.

And that is how I influence friends to be prepared.

The Recap
  • I always have a calm answer to questions about prepping.
The Takeaway
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.

Monday, September 11, 2017

GunBlog VarietyCast #160 - Round and Round

Blood going round and round: Good.

Hurricanes going round and round: Bad.
  • Beth is on assignment and will return next week.
  • What kind of sicko breaks into rehab facilities and sexually assaults the patients? Sean takes a closer look.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • What do you do when a Category Five hurricane is barreling down on you? If you’re Miguel, you fret that you don’t have enough propane, because you’ve already used yours to smoke ribs and brisket.
  • Our Special Guest this week is Kelly Grayson, the Ambulance Driver, here to explain what lifesaving medical equipment lay rescuers should have in their kits… and more importantly, what they shouldn't have.
  • Tiffany’s back with her first after-action report on NRA’s Carry Guard Expo in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You’re going to love her off-the-cuff interview with her Uber driver.
  • Unlike Miguel, Erin is evacuating Florida before Hurricane Irma arrives. On the eve of her departure, she gives us her thoughts on the bug-out process.
  • Weer'd talks about the Kellermann Study in nearly every episode. This week he finally gives that piece of anti-gun “Scientific” research the Patented Weer'd Fisk Treatment that it so richly deserves.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for Smuggler's Notch Litigation Wheat Whiskey.

Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

There is no Blue Collar Prepping Transcript this week because Erin recorded her segment extemporaneously and so there are no notes to transcribe. 

Bump Starting a Manual Transmission

When it comes to evacuating an in an emergency, you may be forced to use what's available instead of what you like. This can include everything from hitching a ride on a city bus, to carpooling, to just straight-up walking. Some people even have a perfectly prepared BOV ready to go, but even if you are ready in that way, life will happen, and at some point people will have to improvise. 

When you improvise, you sometimes have to use whatever is at hand, including cars that you had not planned to use because they have… issues. Sometimes these issues develop while you are on the road, and you have to get the vehicle moving again. 

As a note, this post focuses on manual transmission vehicles, since they are easier to get running in problematic circumstances, and will run even with problems that would cripple an automatic transmission vehicle.

Do you have the key?
If not, you have a whole other set of problems. Entire books have been written on this subject, and the best advice I can give in the space I have is for you to call a locksmith or read up on it elsewhere on the internet.

From personal experience, I recommend that you keep a spare copy of a key to any vehicle you own on a backup ring that you store somewhere safe.

Stick Shift Basics
If you can drive a stick shift, ignore this. Otherwise, this is a basic primer.

A stick shift is like the gears on your bicycle. There are a few safety features in modern transmissions (such as preventing you from going into reverse at high speed), but otherwise the mechanism is very similar. 

The clutch is just a way to unlock the chain so that you can change gears. It also allows the engine and/or wheels to spin freely.

How to Shift
  1. Make sure the parking brake is off and your foot is on the brake pedal. 
  2. Unless the clutch is broken, you will have to engage (press down on) the clutch in order to change into gear. 
  3. Engage first gear (upper left hand corner of the shift tree in most cars) with your left foot on the clutch to fully disengage the transmission. 
    • If you are unfamiliar with the vehicle, slowly raise and lower your left foot a few times on the clutch to try to find that point that it catches just a little bit. This is called a clutch point. 
  4. Make sure the transmission is fully disengaged and turn on the vehicle. 
  5. Take your foot off of the brake and push on the gas with your right foot until you can just hear the rumble of the engine. 
    • Take your foot off too slowly and the engine will not engage the transmission with enough force, and will stall out from the load. 
    • Take your foot off too quickly and you will get “Kangaroo Gas”, where the car will jump and then stop. 
    •  Thankfully, there is a fairly wide range of useful engine speeds, and it gets larger when you practice. 
  6. Slowly disengage the clutch as you engage the gas. As you bring your foot back, you will find that “clutch point” again as the transmission engages enough to move power between the engine and the wheels. (This is where most people have a problem when learning to drive, since they usually let off of the clutch too quickly. The engine is unable to handle the strain and it turns off.)
  7. Keep disengaging the clutch and slowly engaging the gas in order to increase power. 
  8. Changing gears is basically the same procedure, but going from one gear to another instead of from a stop. 
If you need further explanation, I have found this song a useful resource when teaching new drivers.

Bump Starting a Car
There are a lot of reasons a car may not start: the battery may be dead, the battery charging system may have problems, the starter may not work, the distributor may have issues… the list goes on. A surprising number of these can be bypassed by what is called “Bump starting” or “push starting” a car.

This works best on either a flat surface or a slight downward slope, and these techniques also work on most motorcycles and some scooters.

  1. Prep the car. Make sure that your emergency brake is off and that the keys are in the ignition and turned so that you can turn the wheels freely. 
  2. Fully engage the clutch and go into first gear, and make sure that you turn the key so that the electronics are engaged, but not the starter.
  3. Get up to speed. The more skilled you are at this, the easier it gets. I recommend that you be traveling at least 5-7 miles an hour. This is best accomplished by having someone else get out and push, even though I have learned how to push with one leg while operating pedals with the other.
    • As a note, have the lightest person drive if you can. Shaving 50-60 pounds off of the weight does not sound like it would make a huge difference with a several thousand pound vehicle, but often it does.
  4. Pop the clutch. When you are up to speed, release the clutch. The car should shake a bit, and the engine should start. Operate the vehicle from there as normal.

As always, don’t lick the wires, and don’t forget to practice.

Friday, September 8, 2017

How To Move All That Gear, Part 2: Bugging Out From Your Buggy

What do you do if you have abandon your bug out vehicle? Shootist gives us a "Hillbilly Spectacular" demonstration of how he plans to do it.

More Hurricane Updates

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Thursday was spent packing and putting up shutters.

Today I finished putting up the shutters, and will be loading up the car next. I hope to leave soon.

Because I've been busy and didn't have time to make a proper blog post, here's a chronology of my activities as a series of FB statuses:

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Fire and Stone

If you need to build a fire for warmth, cooking, or morale, then you should be looking at being in control of that fire. Fire rings made of steel are common at campgrounds and the old standard for a campfire was a circle of (dry*) stones, both of which keep the fire from spreading to grass and nearby weeds. (I've dealt with a few grass fires; they take some skill and a lot of time to kill, so they are best avoided. Look at the West Coast any summer to see what a grass or brush fire can turn into.) A steel ring also provides a handy stand for supporting a grill or rotisserie to make cooking easier.

In the last year or so I have seen a bunch of “ideas” for building fire pits, most of which use common cement blocks and/or landscape blocks. Since we humans have enjoyed sitting around a fire since before recorded history began, I can understand the desire to have a “safe” fire on your patio or in the backyard. If the electricity goes out, having a way to cook all of the food in your freezer before it spoils would be a good thing. The problem I see with the plans being shared on various social media is the use of concrete to contain the fire.

Standard concrete is a combination of cement and aggregate. The aggregate is sand and small stones, which provide the strength (in compression**) of the concrete. The cement is the glue that holds the aggregate together. Cement is made by grinding limestone into small pieces and then heating them to about 2700° F long enough to drive off all of the water and carbon. When mixed with water, the cement turns back into limestone (admittedly, that's an oversimplification, but it's close to what actually happens), binding the aggregate together tightly.

As you can imagine, the transformation of limestone to cement is reversible if you add heat and evaporate the water. What happens when you build a fireplace or fire-pit out of concrete and then build a fire in it? Depending on the heat of the fire, it will start to degrade or fall apart.
  • Up to 212°F, concrete is safe and isn't damaged, so boiling your water isn't a problem.
  • At about 570°F, the cement starts to lose water and shrink, but the aggregate is going to be expanding and causing stress inside the concrete. The concrete will take on a pink color when it cools.
  • Between 850° and 1050°F, the hardened cement starts to decompose back to dry cement, leaving the aggregate unsupported.
  • Around 900°F, the cement starts to rapidly absorb CO2, which creates carbonic acid when mixed with water. This causes widening of the pores in the surface of the concrete, which exposes more surface area to damage from chemicals in the smoke.
  • When the temps get up to 1,100°F, any quartz in the aggregate explosively boils off into vapor. This will create small voids within the concrete, turning it into heavy styrofoam. The concrete will turn a light gray in color.
For reference: wood, kerosene, coal, and other organic materials have flame temps between 3,000-4,000°F. That's more than enough to destroy concrete in a matter of hours, assuming the concrete doesn't explode first.

The general rule of thumb after a house fire is to treat any concrete that is pink or gray as damaged and unsafe. If the goal is to contain your fire you don't want to use damaged material, so I suggest avoiding the use of concrete.

If you want to make your own fire pit for cooking, signaling, morale, or warmth, use firebrick (silica sand that is fused into blocks) or ceramic (fired clay) materials to be safe. Yes, they're more expensive, but they'll last a lot longer and are a lot less likely to hurt people by exploding. Better yet, use a ring of steel like a section of a barrel or a truck tire rim - I've seen tractor tire rims used to make really large fire-rings that a dozen people can sit around in comfort, but that seems to be a bit wasteful to me. To each his own, I guess.

*I specify dry stones because if you use stones pulled out of a lake or stream, they will likely have water trapped inside them. As the stones heat up from the fire, the water inside will boil off to steam, expanding 1500 times the original volume and turning the stone into a bomb.

** Concrete is very good at holding up heavy weights (compression), but poor at being pulled apart (tension) or twisted (torsion). Steel has the opposite strengths, which is why we use steel bars or rods to reinforce concrete structures.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hurricane Irma Update

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Well, this is unpleasant.

To be clear, it isn't that the track has shifted east, aiming Irma's predicted northward turn right at me; it's that the various spaghetti models are starting to agree on the same general path.

Therefore, my posture has changed from "Wait and See" to "Plan to Evacuate". I've started packing and planning my route, with an eye to leaving on Saturday. This way, if Irma's course is different that predicted and evacuation isn't necessary, I haven't already spent the gas money and put miles on the car, but I ought to have enough lead time to get out before the rush if she's still headed my way and/or the spaghetti models form a consensus.

Prudent Prepping: Disaster Planning pt. 2

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

Another post on moving gear in an emergency... which has become a popular topic lately with all of us here at Blue Collar Prepping!

When a Trunk Will Have To Do
I mentioned last week that my Bug Out vehicle has changed from a truck to a car. This has caused me nothing but problems with what I want to carry versus what will actually fit into the trunk of my car! I've started the process of downsizing my stored gear, along with moving some items to my friends' places, especially those things that are duplicates of my gear. One thing that's a plus is that The Buckets of Holding fit in the trunk!

Room to spare!
I let the trunk organizer stay in and pushed it back enough to see if two buckets will fit. As you can see, they fit just fine, and if I empty and collapse the organizer, there's enough room to place all five buckets inside. However, that defeats the whole idea of having the trunk organizer in the first place.

I'll be doing some more experimenting with what will actually fit after adding some of my water jugs and then my full size backpack, tent, and some emergency supplies like the rolls of plastic and the hand tools that were to be carried in the bed of my trunk. Some of the other, larger and heavy supplies will soon be moved to one friend's place, since they have a 4 wheel drive SUV. They will have more than enough room for a Coleman stove, lanterns, and two or three of the buckets, depending on how they have their food stored. Regardless of what their food preps look like, they have the room to carry heavier and bulkier items that I do not.

I've looked at buying a utility roof rack for the Honda, and since the models have not changed much from '05 to my '12, model racks are available used and range in price from "really cheap and with a dodgy history" to "like new and stupid expensive with too many accessories I don't need". This will be put on my To Be Examined Later list.

The Recap
  • Don't be afraid to throw out what you've planned and start over. 
  • Don't let ego get in the way of being safe.
The Takeaway
  • Watching people you know get excited about planning how to be safe in a disaster is fun!
  • Nothing was purchased this week.

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, September 5, 2017

Hurricane Irma Predictions

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
As the resident Floridian of Blue Collar Prepping, I've received more than a few questions about my plans and my safety from friends who are watching Hurricane Irma
get closer to me.

And these are not unfounded fears. As I write this, Irma is now a Category 5 storm with winds up to 185 miles per hour. As Miguel said, this mean Irma is essentially an F3 tornado that is the size of the entire state.

My attitude about Irma can best be summed up with this picture:

So you can bet that I'm keeping a weather eye on the situation. Now is an excellent time to look over my preps and plan my escape route. This is made slightly harder by the fact that my personal vehicle has a problem with its electrical system, making it undriveable; my options are "rent a car" or "use one of my parent's vehicles". The former is expensive, and the closer the storm gets, the fewer options I'm going to have (and prices will likely increase); the latter doesn't make me comfortable because if my parents come to their senses and decide to leave, they'll have to fit two adults, two dogs and all their gear into a single vehicle. Fortunately it's a Jeep Patriot, so it's SUV-ish in terms of space, but more cars always means more space and more carried gear.

But right now, I'm not worried, merely concerned. Here's why.

This is the prediction of Irma as of 8 pm Sunday night. People started asking me "OMG, Erin, aren't you scared about Irma?" and my reaction was "What, did something change?" because I hadn't realized it had grown to a Cat 3. And looking at the spaghetti models, it's pretty scary; lots of "It's heading right for us!" in there.

(The red line with the time and date stamps is either the average of the models or the prediction with the highest probability, I'm not sure which.)

This is what those models looked like 11 am yesterday. Notice how the predictions have shifted from the east coast of the state to the west coast. While this is worse news for Tampa and Miami, this is great news for me.

This was taken this morning (spaghetti models removed for clarity, as they all pretty much indicated a hit on either the southern tip of Florida or the west coast near Tampa).

This was taken this afternoon, and there's much less deviation on the red line than before, indicating that the forecasters may finally have a lock on Irma's path. At this point, the models all pretty much agree that Irma will turn north; the question is when it turns, and by how much.

Most of those aren't bad for me, not even the bright purple line bisecting the state. This is because, even though it's aimed right at me, there's a LOT of land between the tip of Florida and where I live, and hurricanes lose a lot of power once they make landfall. (And this isn't even counting what power it may lose over Cuba and Hispanola.)

The gray line isn't too bad, because again the landfall is going to be an energy sink for me. If that happens, Irma will probably be a Cat 2 by the time it gets here, which is strong enough to keep things interesting but not enough to induce panic.

The bright blue line along the coast is actually the most dangerous for me, because if the eye stays along the coast without actually making landfall it won't lose much power, and the front left quadrant of the storm is the one with the greatest storm surge. The good news is that I live far enough away, and on sufficiently high ground, that I'm highly unlikely to be flooded. The bad news is that the most highly populated parts of my county live close to the shore, and are likely to be affected by flooding. And then of course there's the wind damage and loss of utilities that will affect all of us.

So I'm not worried, but I am concerned. I don't wish harm on anyone, but at the same time I don't want to get hit either... and it looks like Irma is going to hit someone. Maybe, if we're fantastically lucky, it'll expend its strength on Cuba, reduce to a Cat 1 or tropical storm, and just give us a lot of rain for several days.

Right now, Miami and the Keys need to begin evacuation. I'm told it takes 2 days for the Keys to evacuate, and while I don't know how long it takes the Miami metro area to GFTO, considering that it has 6 million people (8th largest city in the US) it'll probably take a while, so starting sooner and skipping the traffic congestion is a good idea.

Don't worry about me yet. I'll let you know when it's time to worry.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Product Review: Lifestraw Water Bottle

A lot of people hold up the Lifestraw as the gold standard for mobile water filtration, and since the introduction of the Lifestraw Go, it has started to gain ground in the water bottle market as well.

I have owned a Lifestraw Go for about eight months and use it regularly, because water with high chlorine content (such as in Maryland) plays hell on my gut bacteria. I also visit places with a lot of lead in the pipes (Philadelphia, San Francisco, etc). And besides, why not always have a water filter?

Technical Specifications
  • Filters down to 0.2 microns: does not filter out most of the smaller viruses and a (very) few of the smaller bacteria.
  • Does not do much chemical filtration at all without an in-line carbon filter, but does sediment just fine.
  • 23 ounce bottle capacity: it even includes a line to tell you where to fill up to before you put the lid (with the straw) on it, displacing additional water. As far as I can tell, it really does hold 23 ounces of water even with the filter in the bottle.
  • 1,000 liter filter capacity: this is from the product literature and seems to be a conservative estimate.
  • More information can be found at the Lifestraw Go website.

The Lifestraw Go is a mechanically simple design that breaks down easily, and has only four components.

A blue tinted polycarbonate type plastic, mine has survived being frozen, left in the car in the summer in 100 plus degree heat, and been dropped innumerable times, including once sliding off of my roof while I was working on repairing my chimney. It did fall onto the sidewalk, and has a fairly deep scratch from that, but no cracks.

Officially it is not dishwasher safe, due to the risk of warping, but mine has also done well in the dishwasher several times on both regular and high heat.

A screw-on top with a rubberized mouthpiece, which I have also run through the dishwasher without any problems.

The mechanism that keeps the mouthpiece up has not gotten “floppy” despite extended use. The mouthpiece does not have visible wear, nor does it feel notably different from when I first used it. Unlike CamelBak brand water bottles, I have not had the bite nipple come off.

The lid comes with a fabric strap and a carabiner. When I first had the water 
bottle I worried about the strap wearing through or breaking, but it seems to work well, and I have not had any problems with it to date. The carabiner has had no notable spring wear, even though the enamel has several scratches. 

This is a Lifestraw that has been made to attach within a water bottle. Mechanically, the filter seems to be fairly robust, and as far as I can tell really does filter 250-300+ gallons before things start to taste funny, even when filtering somewhat problematic water. When drinking tap water, the filter definitely has a longer lifespan, but only by about 50% (400+ ish gallons) before the water tastes off again.

(I base these estimations on the number of times I refill it in a day, multiplied by capacity.)

Replacements are easy to obtain from Amazon and are easy to install. After replacement, the water from the first two to three gallons tastes a little off. From what I can tell, this is normal and not a problem with the filter itself.

Either this or the carbon filter (below) can be attached directly to the lid.

Replace this if ever freezes, as the expansion of moisture will damage the filter! Trust me, for I have made this mistake twice. Neither showed external signs of cracking or other wear after freezing, but the filter does become compromised on a microscopic level. This allows unfiltered water to get through. If your water starts to taste unpleasant soon after a cold spell, odds are good your filter is compromised.

Carbon Filter
The carbon filter is only used to take out chemical contamination, such as excess chlorine, as well as odor and poor taste. (On a somewhat more personal note, I drink a lot more water when it does not taste awful.) It comes in packs of two, with each carbon filter lasting about 10% of the lifespan of the primary filter.

You can attach a carbon filter to the lid and then a primary filter, and it takes about 30-45 seconds to add one to it.

General Notes
If you do not fully extend the mouthpiece, it has a tendency to suck in air. If left on its side and the mouthpiece is partially extended, it has a tendency to slowly leak.

I recommend that you mark your name or similar on it in a paint pen, since it looks like every other plastic water bottle on the market unless you are paying attention.

Overall, the filter has been fantastic. I have used others in the past, but this one seems to work the best for my needs and uses.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

GunBlog VarietyCast #159 - We Agree With Nancy Pelosi. Yes, We're As Surprised As You Are.

"Lickspittle" is an excellent pejorative that deserves more usage.
  • Beth taught a USCCA class in Connecticut this past weekend, where apparently the state wants to make it as difficult as possible for people to get CCW permits or firearms, with blocks at every turn! Where's reciprocity when you need it?!?!
  • What kind of person robs a bank and murders 2 tellers in the process? The story quotes the FBI report, but Sean reads the criminal record.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • Do you know a loved one's most important medical details when they need to be taken to the ER? Stuff that will be needed RIGHT THIS MOMENT? Miguel has some suggestions for us.
  • Our Main Topic is The End of Antifa. Their left wing allies are telling them to knock it off. It's a cynical Sister Souljah moment by the establishment.
  • Tiffany is on assignment and will return soon.
  • You survived the hurricane - now you have to survive the flooding. Erin gives prepping advice based on what she's seen in Houston.
  • Former Bloomberg lickspittle Mark Glaze goes out on his own, and now he’s out for blood! Weer’d looks at Glaze’s talking points through the ages.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the Wondery podcast, "Tides of History."
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
Flood Preps
Back in episode 51, when Tampa was flooded, I discussed what to do if your car was caught in floodwaters. Given the situation in Houston, it seems timely and relevant to discuss what to do if your home is flooded. The most important piece of advice I can give you is something that I’ve echoed many times before: If you know a disaster is coming and you have the ability to get out, do so.

I know the mayor of Houston told people not to evacuate, and I can sort of see his reasoning for it: the Houston interstate system is also its flood control system, with the water designed to follow the roads until it lets out into the Gulf - and the last time Houstonians evacuated, which was in 2005 for Hurricane Rita, the roads quickly became jammed because Houston is the 4th largest city in America. A combination of gridlock and a heatwave resulted in up to 118 deaths before the storm even arrived, as opposed to only 113 deaths caused by Rita itself.

So from a logistical point of view, I can see why Mayor Turner didn’t demand mandatory evacuation. But the key word there is “demand”; just because you don’t have to go doesn’t mean you shouldn't go. From my point of view, evacuation not being mandatory just means I have an easier time getting out of town! But let’s say you’ve decided not to evacuate for whatever reason. You’ve stockpiled food, water, batteries, and medical supplies, and your house made it through the storm in one piece - but now you have to deal with flooding.

Ideally, you live on high ground, which means your house isn’t flooded. But even if that’s the case, you are likely without power and running water, and you may need to leave your house to get supplies. If you aren’t on high ground, you definitely need to move so that you can get a warm, dry place to sleep, because floodwaters cause hypothermia, structural damage to houses, and disease with them. Your three biggest needs are waterproofing your preps, communication, and transport. 

Waterproofing is a subject that I discussed in its own segment in episode 29. I won’t repeat all of that here, just add that if you’re going to go to the trouble of making preps, you need to keep them dry and keep them from floating away. Having food in a waterproof box does you no good if that box has floated off in the floodwaters! So lash your preps your something strong. 

And I do mean strong. Two feet of water can pick up and move trucks, so don’t think that lashing your boxes to a 100 pound shelf is going to do you any good. I mean strong as in a structural support or part of the foundation.

Where you put them is also a bit of a gamble. You don’t want you preps on the ground floor if you’re expecting floods, so many preppers store theirs in the attic - which is great, except for the fact that hurricane-force winds have a distressing tendency to peel roofs off. 

The best advice I can give is to keep your preps with you wherever you shelter, so keep them portable, and have a variety of places where you can secure them. Make sure they are visible, with bright colors on the lids and sides, so you can find them if they are covered by dark water. 

Communication sounds difficult because the best kind in a situation like this is a HAM radio. Most people think this requires a lot of expensive gear and a large antenna, but they’re wrong. For the low price of around $25 you can get the Baofeng UV5RA, a handheld HAM radio that looks like a thick walkie-talkie. This means that they’re not only portable, but that you can also keep them in waterproof containers until needed. 

Best of all, not only can the Baofeng listen to FM and weather bands, but there are also local repeaters nearly everywhere. You can set your radio up to link into these repeaters, and the repeaters then send your signal out at a significantly stronger and more efficient range. This means that your inexpensive handheld 2-5 watts radio can communicate up to several hundred miles if you get into a linked repeater system.

The drawback to these is that you need a HAM license in order to broadcast on them. But from my point of view, if it’s a survival situation, you use what you have to call for help and to paraphrase Ellen Ripley from Aliens, “The FCC can bill me later.”

Transportation is where it gets expensive, because I’ve been told that the owner’s definition of “a boat” is “a hole in the water into which you throw money”. But if you have a fishing boat, a flat-bottom utility boat, or even a rowboat, you’re doing well -- assuming, of course, it didn’t get floated away.

If you don’t own a boat, the cheapest option would be to buy an inflatable raft of some kind and store it along with your preps. Right now, the best kind I can find is an Intex Excursion 5-person inflatable raft with oars for $115 on eBay.

If you go this route, make sure you have the following accessories with it:
  • A tow line for securing it
  • Life vests for everyone who will use it, including pets
  • Extra oars - if you have 5 people, then 4 should be paddling and 1 should be steering
  • Repair kits, in case debris in the water pokes a hole in it
  • Some way to get it and yourself out of the attic, such as a fire ax, if that’s where you keep the raft. 
A raised inflatable mattress, like the kind you get from Serta, can also serve as a makeshift cargo barge. The twin version is rated to support 250 pounds or more, and the queen size ought to be at least double that. A cargo net, or one made from paracord, would not only secure what’s on it but also give you tie-downs for towing and securing it. Check out the video in the show notes.

Stay strong and stay dry, Texas.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Bug-Out Mobility Preps

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Those who have been listening to GunBlog VarietyCast Radio know that for the last few months, I've been working on making my room less cluttered and more organized. Finally, I get to show you the fruits of some of that labor: my bug-out preps, staged and ready to go.

The pack is on a folding camp stool, so instead of having to lift a heavy pack with my arms and back, I just follow this sequence:
  1. Squat down in front of pack
  2. Fasten pack straps around shoulders and waist
  3. Stand up
  4. Grab other things (like the stool or the walking stick/spear or a rifle) 
  5. Walk out the door.
If I take the stool with me, I can use a similar procedure to dismount. I feel that not only is this an easier method, but it's also healthier -- my legs are doing most of the lifting, rather than my back.

But what if I don't want to carry all that weight on my back? What if I'm traveling a long distance, or I need to carry a lot of gear, or a family member is unable to walk? This is why I bought a deer cart with a 500 lb lifting capacity, even though I don't hunt, and I'm pleased to report that my first use of it was a success.

Mom buys 100 lbs (!) of corn for forest critters every 2 weeks.* Normally, we each grab a 15-20 pound bag and carry it to the porch. This gets the job done, but it's tiring; the corn is constantly trying to slip out of our arms. So this time, instead of carrying the bags by hand, I instead loaded all the bags onto the cart, then pulled the cart to the back yard.
  • Was this faster than carrying each bag in by hand? Yes.
  • Was it easier? For me, no. I just ended up using different muscles by loading up the cart and then pulling it. On the other hand, it was much easier for mom, because all she had to do was open doors and gates for me and close them afterwards.
  • Note: Unless you're carrying something very large or very rigid, you'll need something between the bars to keep the contents from slipping out. I used a chaise lounge cushion, because it was handy. This worked quite well, and would also make the cart more comfortable if used as an emergency litter.
  • The wheels traveled well over the grass and dirt of the backyard, so I have a good idea how well the cart will handle off-road. 

It folds up rather tidily. The wheels can be removed with a simple locking pin, but that makes moving the cart a pain in the rear; it's far easier just to push it around like a dolly.

The retention loops on the linchpins can be used to help hold some pieces in place (such as the crossbars), but be aware that the bottom piece -- which is on top in this illustration, having been pivoted around the axle -- is loose and needs to be secured with tie-downs or held in place by hand.

The handlebar can also fold down, but I see no benefit in that for my purposes. It makes long-term storage easier, though.

There are however two caveats about this particular cart:
  1. The instructions tell you to put the handles on pointing down. I thought this was dumb from an ergonomic standpoint, so I put them on the other way.
  2. Not all of the holes line up evenly, and getting the linchpins through them was such a pain that I eventually got out my power tools and reamed the holes out with a drill bit. 

Still, for $56 and free shipping, not a bad little cart.

(We have a forest behind our back yard, and the critters include squirrels, possums, raccoons, and deer. The animals make her happy, and if things get bad, we have a source of game animals for a while.)

The Fine Print

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