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Monday, November 11, 2019

Hen Condo Winter Mods


This week: Keeping my chickens dry and warm and happy.

I just bought a new coop. It’s awesome, complete, and should outlast my desire to need it. However, winter is here, the girls are crowded, and I have to make some adjustments.




Godspeed to you all.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Live Traps

Whether you live in a rural or urban location, there are times when the local wildlife will become a nuisance. However, if they get into your food storage, they become much more than a nuisance:
  • Skunks and raccoons carry rabies which is a threat to humans and domestic animals. They can also slaughter a coop full of chickens in a night.
  • Possums are generally beneficial critters that eat a lot of insects, but they have a habit of scattering the contents of trash cans.
  • Stray cats can put a dent in the local bird and small mammal population. This may or may not be a problem, depending on what they are preying on; rats and mice are fair game, as are birds that endanger stored grain, but when they start to compete for food with people (by hunting rabbits and squirrels, mostly), they become a nuisance.
  • Stray dogs that have formed a pack are no longer domesticated and are a hazard to people and livestock. In most rural areas, dogs seen chasing deer or livestock are given the “3 S” treatment; Shoot, Shovel, Shut up.
  • Groundhogs serve no good purpose that I'm aware of; they're just a pest.
  • Gophers and moles might make your lawn look bad, but they also eat a lot of earthworms that do a good job of aerating and conditioning the soil.

If you live inside city limits, the locals will not appreciate you using firearms to remove a nuisance animal. The level of their annoyance will vary by the politics of your area, but you're likely to get a ticket at least. Blazing away at a possum in your trash can is a good way to let everyone within earshot know that you have firearms, which is poor operational security (OPSEC) and could set you up for a visit by the local thieves.

Rural living has the advantage of fewer neighbors and fewer laws, but there are times when killing a nuisance animal isn't the answer:
  • Possums can be relocated to the woods, preferably a few miles away so they don't come back.
  • A neighbor with a rodent problem could use a few stray cats around his barn (be sure to ask first).
  • Skunks, foxes, and raccoons are considered fur-bearing animals, and some states have seasons when you can and can't harvest them.

The easiest way to remove a nuisance critter is with a live trap. I've been around standard leg-hold and conibear style traps, and they have the disadvantage of being indiscriminate in what they kill, but live traps let you decide what to do with your catch. Since the bait used for raccoons and possums is attractive to cats and dogs, it's nice to be able to dump Fluffy or Spot out of a live trap unharmed.

We keep a couple of Havahart live traps at the family farm for nuisances. They are a well-made brand that has been around for a long time, and the newer “Easy set” versions aren't as finicky as some of the old styles. You'll have to follow the instructions on how to set the trap, and Havahart has a YouTube channel instead of printed instructions. These traps aren't exactly cheap, but they last for decades and can be loaned out as needed, which means that not everybody needs to own one. They do come in different sizes; I stick with the medium and large because I've had pests that won't fit into the small ones.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Fallout Shelters

One of our readers on Facebook brought up fallout shelters as a form of prepping. Done properly, a fallout shelter is a moderately expensive ($5,000 -  $10,000) bit of prep because they're not as prevalent as they once were.

First, a disclaimer: fallout shelters are not the same as bunkers. A full-blown nuclear war bunker will have an armored door, air and water filtration systems, and months or years of supplies for the occupants, whereas a fallout shelter is a temporary shelter to get people out of the elements and away from the residue that will drift out of the sky following a nuclear blast (fallout). These shelters were designed and stocked to be used for a week or two, just long enough for the worst of the radioactive materials to burn out. Erin has explained radiation in past articles, but the short version is that the most energetic (dangerous) isotopes burn out quickly, so a couple of weeks underground is a good way to avoid exposure.

Sixty years ago, during the Cold War between the US and the USSR, nuclear war was a very real possibility and people prepared for it as best they could. An old neighbor's house had a decent one built into the basement with built-in shelving, bunks, and a double-turn entrance, meaning that the entrance was built so that there was no direct line of sight from the inside to the outside which provided a barrier to radiation. The neighbors turned it into a pantry for storing bulk foods, but it was still useful as a storm shelter. The threat of nuclear war has subsided, but having some place safe from tornadoes and other environmental hazards is still a good idea.

During the Cold War, our government actually set up a department of Civil Defense (CD) to provide information and supplies to the civilian population. I won't get into politics (we don't do that here), but this was an example of government actually trying to help the taxpayers. Unfortunately, the CD was replaced by FEMA in 1979, and their focus shifted to other threats. Simple supplies, well marked and pre-positioned where they will be needed, is something I'd like to see come back.

If you look around in the lower levels of older buildings, you may see a sign like this. These signs designated areas that the building's owners had loaned to the government for use as shelters. 

I was recently “promoted” at work and was handed a location of my own to run. The “new” location is a grain elevator that was built in 1955, in a very small town about an hour's drive from a major Cold War target. While digging through the accumulated papers and files, I found the original “license” papers for the fallout shelter on our site and some of the shipping papers for the supplies that the US government had placed there in 1962. Since the elevator is made of reinforced concrete and has a rather spacious “basement” area underground for pipes and conveyors, it would have made for a fairly comfortable shelter. The supplies had a limited (5 year) shelf-life and are long gone, but I did find the radiation detection kit sitting on a shelf in the back office. I'll do an article on that box later.

Here's a list of what was stored in my location for a maximum of 50 people and the descriptions from the official paperwork (the shipping papers didn't match the instructions exactly):

Crackers 5 gallon, 24.5# (11 cartons)
Food package, biscuit, survival. A wheat flour baked biscuit similar in taste and texture to a graham cracker. Each package provides 10,000 calories per person for 7 people. Each cardboard container contained six 6-pound cans of biscuits (390 biscuits, each 2.5”x2.5” and providing 30 calories).

Drum, metal, water storage (10 each)
17.5 gallon metal or fiber water containers, providing one quart of water per person per day. They were shipped empty with a plastic liner provided to keep the water clean and were to be filled once they reached the shelter. Remember the 5 year shelf-life?

Bag, liner, polyethylene (20 each)
For the water drums. The extras are so the drums can be used as toilets once the water is gone.

Sanitation kit, model 5K 1V (1 each)
A fiber (cardboard) drum, 16” diameter and 21” high containing:
  • 1 polyethylene liner bag
  • 5 pints toilet chemical (deodorant/disinfectant)
  • 1 privacy screen (5'x8' sheet of plastic)
  • 1 roll twine (for the privacy screen)
  • 6 wire ties (to close filled bags)
  • 20 rolls toilet paper
  • 1 can opener
  • 6 bottles of 50 Globoline water purification tablets (iodine-based water tablets)
  • 1 toilet seat
  • 1 pair plastic gloves
  • 20 plastic canteens (for rationing the water)

Medical kit A (1 each)
Medical kit A was the smallest and designed for 50 people. The B kit was for 100, and the C kit was for 300 and contained medications that wouldn't be allowed in today's political climate. The A kit contained:
  • 5 bottles of 100 aspirin
  • 1 bottle of 100 Aluminum Hydroxide Gel tablets (antacid)
  • 1 bottle of 10 Bismuth Subcarbonate tablets (similar to Pepto-Bismol)
  • 1 2 oz bottle of Calamine lotion (for skin irritation and rashes)
  • 2 bars surgical soap
  • 1 1 oz bottle of Eugenol (the active ingredient in cloves, useful for toothaches)
  • 2 4 oz containers of surgical jelly
  • 1 1 oz container Tetracaine ointment (similar to Lidocaine, a topical numbing agent)
  • 1 qt Isopropyl Alcohol (disinfectant)
  • 1 bottle ear drops
  • 8 4 oz containers Elixir Terpin Hydrate ( an expectorant, used to loosen mucous in the lungs)
  • 2 ½ oz eye and nose drops
  • Various bandages, dressings, sanitary pads and belts (ask your grandmother)
  • An official Civil Defense Medical Self-help Manual.
As you can see, the water and food supplies were subsistence level, and the medical supplies were mostly medicine cabinet grade. Since the occupants were expected to be mostly sedentary, with no heavy work or exertion, two weeks on this diet wouldn't have been pleasant but it would have been survivable. Being in a grain elevator there would have been plenty of wheat and corn to supplement the rations, with a few rats for extra protein.


There are a lot of resources online for designing or buying a fallout shelter. If you just want to see some of the history of the CD system, I recommend the Civil Defense Museum. I'm trying to contact the owner of that site to see if he wants any of the stuff I've found; otherwise, it will probably go to a local museum.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Night Vision Binoculars 90 Day Test

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

Back in July, I mentioned that I bought some inexpensive night vision binoculars from one of the stores I call on. I've had a chance to try them several different times, and so it's time for a review.

Night Hero Binoculars 

https://amzn.to/2PSWzwE

To be clear, these night vision binoculars use an emitter to illuminate your area of view. They are adequate as binoculars for day use, and at night I can see quite a distance clearly enough to plan out where to walk.

From the Amazon page:
Wish you could see what goes bump in the night? Out camping and are weary or the local wildlife? Harness the power of night vision goggles in a convenient, everyday pair of binoculars! Atomic Beam Night Hero Binoculars give you optimal day vision and night vision. Thanks to the special atomic beam laser you’ll see objects hidden in the darkness from 150-yards away.
I don't have an area where I can measure 150 yards and try to see clearly, but I do know that, at what I guess is 50-75 yards, I can see well enough to walk through an unlit park without any problem. As I mentioned in my previous post, I didn't know about battery life and I still don't know exactly how long the batteries will last with constant use. I've used them twice a month since July and not more than maybe 2 hours total time, so I like to think this was realistic use. I suppose I could hold the switch down, but I wanted to give the binoculars a real world test.

I missed having some inexpensive binoculars that I could haul everywhere and not really worry about. The quality of the lenses is good enough for spotting on a 100 yard range, in good light with reactive targets. 

I'm keeping mine.

Recap And Takeaway
  • I forgot about a purchase last week: one tire for my Accord. I hit something on my Zero Dark Thirty commute which caused a puncture just off the tread on the side wall. I used money I've been setting aside for tires in my reserve funds, so it wasn't a large problem. I will replace the other side next month, so that the axle pair will match.
  • Reviewed this week: the Night Hero Binoculars by BulbHead, found on Amazon for $38.90 with Prime.
* * *

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Pantry Organization Update

My pantry has become a mess. On the positive side, we're storing more food and a wider variety of foods; on the negative side, my old system hasn't kept up as our scale has increased. Being a good-ish Mormon is catching up to me somewhat.

Fall is a great time to check your supplies. Seasonal changes are a built-in reminder, and if you entertain like we do you'll need to inventory your stocks anyway with the holiday season pending. It was while we were doing this very inventory that we decided we're past due for some upgrades, which will be extensive. I have a huge amount of space in my pantry, but a lot of it is less than ideally usable.

As I mentioned in my previous article, boxed and especially bagged goods are still a nightmare for organization. My shelves are quite deep (in the neighborhood of 24") and make it a bit tough to see what is on the shelf. In short, my shelves are too deep front-to-back, a bit too short in vertical space, and generally lacking access.

The first thing I plan to do is remove a tier of shelving. It'll cost me a bit of space, but it's going to make space for a can organizer. I'm going with the largest unit they have, since I'm at the point that I need to store that many varieties of canned goods. If you're not at that point, you can go with a smaller model and expand later.

Boxed and bagged goods will move to under-shelf baskets. This will keep them from hiding behind other item, and allow me to better see what I do have. Also, elevating these goods frees pantry space below them for other items. I also have a fair bit of dead space at the bottom of my pantry that can be utilized with hanging baskets.

My preliminary math has me expecting a wash on actual space available, but a substantial gain on usable space. Knowing what I have available will ensure I not only don't run out of supplies, but also don't over-buy items that I already have because I can't see them when I make out my shopping list. I'll show pictures as I do the actual build so you can see the progress of the project.

Optimize your space to save time and money.

Lokidude

Monday, November 4, 2019

Practice Makes Prudent Prepping: Detroit Gambler 500, Part 1

 Over the winter I’ll be planning and preparing for the Detroit Gambler 500. If you are unfamiliar, check them out here.



Godspeed to you all.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Zombieland Rules for Preppers

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Yes, this is a couple days late for Halloween. My apologies; it's been a rough week for a lot of us, which explains why we had no posts on Tuesday or Thursday and why mine is late.

But hopefully it's still somewhat " 'tis the spooky season" this weekend, and in that spirit I give you a somewhat-serious take on the Zombieland rules of survival and how they can be applied to preppers for all sorts of apocalypses.



Rule #1: Cardio
Being in shape is important, although I would suggest more than just cardio exercise. Most Americans need to lose about 30 pounds, myself included, and not only would that make us lighter and faster but it will also increase our lifespan. Furthermore, in disasters and emergencies we may need to lift, move or carry something heavy in order to save lives, so being strong and healthy allows us to do that and also protects us from injury (see #18, below).

Every prepper should be able to do at least one push-up and one pull-up, and be able to sprint 100 yards without getting winded.

Rule #2: Double Tap
In the context of the movies this is meant to illustrate the concept of "If you need to kill something, take the extra time to ensure that it's truly dead instead of just wounded." This can apply in various situations from ethical hunting (if you wounded an animal, follow it and put it out of its misery quickly rather than letting it suffer) to self defense (shoot until the threat is neutralized and never shoot to wound). 

Important Disclaimer: If you do shoot someone in self defense, NEVER perform a coup-de-grace. That's a good way to get yourself arrested, charged, and convicted for murder. 

Rule #2 (Deleted Scene): Ziploc Bags
Weatherproofing is important, especially for supplies which can be spoiled by exposure to moisture. Food, ammunition, and fire starting supplies like matches and tinder all need to be kept dry. You need to keep dry, too, because being wet leads to being cold which can lead to hypothermia. 

Rule #3: Beware of Bathrooms
When you're using the restroom, you are uniquely vulnerable: your pants are literally down and you typically don't have another way out. If there's only one way in and you're cornered, then you have to get past an assailant in order to escape. However, people do need to use the toilet, so in situations where you feel you might be in danger when using the bathroom, utilize the buddy system (see below). 

Rule #4: Seatbelts
Use all protective gear available to you, because prevention is the best cure. 

Rule #6 (Promotional Video): Cast Iron Skillet
Not shown in the movie but rather in a series of promos for the movie. While the video suggests it as an weapon, I take it as a reminder that we are surrounded by tools which can be repurposed for different tasks. Don't forget to improvise!

Rule #7: Travel Light
When you have to evacuate, don't let your preps weigh you down. Getting to safety alive is preferable to dying with all your stuff. 

Rule #12 (Promotional Video): Bounty Paper Towels
Hygiene is important for health (especially in a situation involving infection materials) as well as happiness.

Rule #15 (Promotional Video): Bowling Ball
Need to throw something? Just use a little ingenuity to make it easier. Use gravity to help you whenever possible. 

Rule #17: Don't Be a Hero
This rule applies in both interpretations. Sometimes it's necessary to risk your life to save others, especially if they're loved ones, but remember that you can't help anyone if you're trapped, injured, unconscious or dead. Don't take foolish risks!

Rule #18: Limber Up
If you need to move something heavy, or if you suspect you'll need to run hard, it makes sense to take a few moments to limber up. Soft-tissue injuries like pulled muscles suck on normal days; during an emergency they could mean the difference between death and survival. 

Rule #29 (Promotional Video): The Buddy System
You'll end up being vulnerable at some point; we all need to sleep and use the bathroom. Have a trusted friend (or more) watch out for you while you rest, clean yourself, etc. 

Rule #31: Check the Back Seat
Looking behind you on a regular basis is a habit all people ought to cultivate. In the military this is known as "Checking your six". 

Rule #32: Enjoy the Little Things
Morale is critically important during an emergency or disaster; a fatalistic mindset can result in fatalities. When possible and when it's safe, take time to do something fun to raise spirits and remind you that there's something to live for at the end of all this. 

Rule #33 (Promotional Video): Swiss Army Knife
I actually don't much care for the Swiss Army Knife as I feel it doesn't do anything well and does many things badly. However, never underestimate the value of a good multitool, like a Leatherman

Rule #52: Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help
This is from the new movie, Zombieland: Double Tap,  which I haven't seen yet but hope to see this weekend. In many ways it's a restatement of #29, but it's also a reminder that human beings will respond to cries for help. In fact, emergencies tend to bring out the best in people, so form a group and get things done.  

If there are any more rules in the new movie (and there ought to be) I'll list them in a follow-up article!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Prudent Prepping: the Solo Bonfire

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

Things are back to normal here... or as normal as things can be in the earthquake/fire/drought land called California. I mentioned to a reader that the disasters are now affecting the exclusive suburbs and expensive high-rent urban neighborhoods which has changed how the fires are reported here in N. California, while S. California fires have burned exclusive towns for years. The poor forest and open space management doesn't discriminate by ZIP Code; it has now affected almost every county in N. California.

But enough of this, I'm safe from the scare of a fire 2.5 miles away that was contained to 50 acres, even if the smoke was so thick Sunday night it kept everyone up.

As an add-on to last weeks Buffet Post, I just saw this in The Home Depot:

Solo Bonfire

Solo Fire Pit

Now this is the Solo Bonfire Model SSBON, which is the basic model offered by Solo. It's a 19.5" W x 14" H stainless steel fire pit.

From the Home Depot ad:
  
The Solo Stove Bonfire is unlike any other fire pit you've ever seen. We have used our same patented technology that has been perfected into a portable fire pit to take along on trips or to enjoy at home. The best part. Nearly no smoke and minimal ash left over. Making the Bonfire not only easy to clean up, but wont leave you smelling like campfire. The Bonfire gets its power from logs, larger sticks or woody debris, to fuel the fire while the air intake holes on the bottom pull air in towards the fuel source. While air is being pulled in, the double-wall construction allows air to be heated up and fed through the top vents providing an extra boost of pre-heated oxygen, creating a secondary combustion and a beautiful flame that your family and friends will enjoy watching.

  • Low smoke
  • Portable
  • Durable
  • 304 stainless steel

Why am I posting about a fire pit when what looks like half my state is on fire? Because the other half isn't burning, and the rest of the country could enjoy a nice fire on the patio!

Here is a little more information on the unit:



It seems to be very well built in the same fashion as their stoves, which Erin mentioned to me once. Or twice. Not more than three times, I'm positive!

I really don't know how these things ended up on the shelf of one of the Depots I call on, but as you can see, there they are. I do have to say that I looked in the other stores in my area and the Solo Fire Pit was only stocked in one store, so I would have everyone check your local store. 

Full Disclosure time: Amazon has the exact model for $5 less with Prime and if you choose the BCP Amazon link, we get a little boost. This might be the better option, since everyone can get an Amazon delivery. 

Unless you're on fire.

Takeaway And Recap
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but my friends and I were able to put in place a few more emergency plans. There were even discussions of, and some actual BOB building, along with discussions about where everyone's important papers are kept just in case a real disaster hits.
  • Check out your local big box hardware store for a really nice, low-smoke Solo Bonfire... or order the Solo Bonfire through Amazon for only $295 and save $5 while helping out Blue Collar Prepping! What a deal!
                                                                   ***

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Love Thy Eggs: New Coop 2019

o.
This week: Keeping my chickens dry and warm.

I just bought a new coop. It’s awesome, complete, and should outlast my desire to need it. However, winter is coming soon and I’m in a rush to get it covered, so I had to do a little thinking on my feet.




Did I mention it was pre-wired? That light bulb survived the trip right where it's at!

Here’s a couple of pics in case you missed it.




Here's that ash I was talking about. Be careful what you burn!


Godspeed to you all.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Product Review: Lansky C-Sharp

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Longtime readers of this blog will no doubt remember when both Lokidude and myself enthused over the Lansky QuadSharp, a pocket-sized knife sharpener which came with four carbide cutting slots: 17, 20, 25, and 30 degrees. Its size, weight, price, and versatility (the ability to sharpen both a fillet knife and an axe is not to be underestimated) earned it a spot in any prepper's camping gear or Bug Out Bag.

I have only just become aware of the Lansky C-Sharp, which is essentially the QuadSharp but its its carbide cutting blades replaced with 600 grit ceramic surfaces for honing knives. The moment I found it on Amazon it I bought it solely based upon the strength of my experience with the QuadSharp alone, and I was not disappointed.

https://amzn.to/32Lglhk

There really isn't much to say about the C-Sharp that hasn't been said about the QuadSharp. The form factor is identical, as is its price and quality of construction. If you like the QuadSharp then you will want this as well, and I believe this will become an essential part of your preps.

As for my own experience with it: I was able to take an old Mora with a damaged edge (the blade had a serious dink in the edge, and someone had tried to repair it by re-profiling the Mora's Scandi grind with a secondary bevel.. and not very well at that) and between the QuadSharp and the C-Sharp I was able to restore it to a 20° angle that cuts quite well. It may never be sharp enough to shave with, but for an outdoor working knife its cuts just fine and I won't be worried about using it as a "beater knife" in the future.

My Rating: 5/5
Buy it! You won't be disappointed. Repair damaged or seriously dull blades with the Quadsharp and then hone them to razor sharpness, or just touch up already sharp blades, with the C-Sharp. The only way Lansky could improve on this perfection is if they released a third version with a fine grit for polishing and perhaps a leather strop along the edge.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Drinking Container Safety: Metals

Last week I covered plastics for food and drink use; this week I'll cover the common metals you might find or buy for the same purposes. Metal containers have been in use for thousands of years, but the recent crazes of “detox diets” and natural-everything have made it hard to find useful information on the Internet. If a website has “natural” or “health” in the name and doesn't end in .gov or .edu, take the information found there with a healthy helping of skepticism.

Metal cans and cups have been around since humans learned how to work metal. Some metals are safe, some are safe with most liquids, and some should be avoided at all costs. Starting with the lowest atomic number and working up to end with the common alloys, here are the more common metals with their pros and cons:

12 Mg- Magnesium
Known for being light-weight and strong, Mg isn't used for food or water containers very often. Very reactive and hard to work with due to its low ignition temperature, Mg is rare in cookware but may be used in a make-shift water container. Excess Mg is readily excreted from the body, so only those with certain medical conditions need to worry about consuming too much.

13 Al- Aluminum
Once a standard for light-weight cookware and dishes, Al has been linked to several health issues and is falling out of favor. Al is a very reactive metal and is always found in combination with another element. Simple Al oxidizes almost immediately when exposed to air, forming a protective coating of aluminum oxide, but acidic foods and drinks will eat through that layer and leach Al into the food/drink. Heat will also speed up leaching, so cooking in Al will expose you to more.

22 Ti- Titanium
Light, strong, and expensive, Ti is safe for food use. There is slight chance of being allergic to Ti, but it is considered non-toxic. I've got a few pieces of Ti holding bones together, so it's safe to say that it is safe to eat or drink from containers made of it.

24 Cr- Chromium
A component of most stainless steels, Cr is also used to plate or cover cheaper metals to give them a shiny, corrosion resistant covering. Most of the reports of Crpoisoning are related to ions of Cr used in the plating process and not the finished product, so using that old chromed hubcap in your water collection system shouldn't be a problem.

26 Fe- Iron
Required by your body to function, Fe is non-toxic at all but very high doses. You might have to filter flakes of rust out of your water, but iron and steel containers are safe to drink from. Watch for bacteria and other microbes growing in rust and the pores of iron containers.

28 Ni- Nickel
Like Cr, Ni is used in stainless steel alloys and as a plating for other metals. Allergic reactions to Ni are fairly common, so if you can't wear cheap jewelry without breaking out in a rash you should avoid Ni plated drinking containers.

29 Cu- Copper
Being easy to work, fairly cheap, and a good conductor of heat all make Cu a good choice for cookware. It is soft and scratches easily, so it requires some care. Commonly found in distilleries and water pipes in old houses, Cu has become more expensive lately. See Pb, below, for information on solder joints. Cu is another trace element that your body needs, but high doses should be avoided.

30 Zn- Zinc
Commonly used to galvanize steel to give it a rust-proof finish, Zn is a trace mineral needed for proper bodily functions. Fairly non-toxic, but high doses can interfere with Fe and Cu metabolism. Avoid heating galvanized steel since doing so will release toxic fumes. If you are going to use a plated piece of metal as a grill or pan, make sure you safely burn off the plating first.

47 Ag- Silver
Solid silver and silver-plated dinnerware has been around for a long time because not only is it safe to use with food, but it may also have minor antibacterial properties. I'm not going to get into the colloidal silver debate, but silver ions have been shown to kill microbes in many lab tests. Too much in your diet will turn your skin permanently blue-gray (Argyria), but it takes more than that to be toxic.

50 Sn- Tin
Most of us have heard of tin cans, which are actually steel cans with a thin lining of Tin on the inside. Tin is a stable metal and not very reactive, so it is less likely to corrode and contaminate stored food or water than the steel shell which provides strength. Tin by itself is non-toxic and safe to use with food and drinks.

79 Au- Gold
Expensive but one of the best for food contact, gold doesn't tarnish and is almost inert in most environments, making it very unlikely to contaminate food or water.

82 Pb- Lead
One of the well-known heavy metals that is hazardous with long-term exposure. Its low melting point makes it a good solder for joining metals, so it is common in old water supplies and copper radiators. New potable water supply lines need to be soldered together with lead-free solder to avoid ingesting Pb with every cup of water, but such solder is easy to find.

Pb does accumulate in the body, so the longer you're exposed the more damage it will do to the central nervous system (CNS), peripheral nerves, kidneys, and circulatory system. Removing Pb from the body is a delicate procedure requiring hospital care and chelation therapy. Definitely one to avoid at all costs!

Alloys

Brass
And alloy of Cu and Zn, brass is a common decorative metal. It does corrode, as anyone who has ever had to polish brass buttons on a uniform will attest. Some blends of brass can contain Pb and there is concern over the possible leaching of the Pb into water from brass plumbing fixtures. California has greatly reduced the allowable amount of Pb in all consumer goods, so newer fixtures should be safer than old ones.

Often used to make musical instruments, brass has some anti-microbial properties that are being researched. History shows that brass fittings on ships resist biological fouling, but until that can be quantified in a lab it is just “anecdotal evidence”.

Bronze
One part tin and seven parts copper, bronze is one of the oldest alloys used by man, dating back at least 5000 years and is still in production today. Large bells and statues are often made of bronze due to its strength and ease of casting. Like brass, it can contain trace amounts of Pb as well as other metals.

Pewter
A blend of Tin, Lead, Copper, and possibly other metals, pewter is of questionable safety to use with food. Pewter is used when the maker wants a darker alloy than either brass or bronze; it is normally gray or brown in color instead of the reddish-yellow of the other Cu alloys. The presence of any significant amount of lead would put it far down the list of potential materials for me.

Stainless Steel
Stainless steel (SS) is a generic name for a wide variety of alloys of steel and Ni, Mo, Mn, Cr, and a few other metals. Most common SS alloys are well-suited for use with food and water, with the only caveat to avoid storing chlorine-based solutions in SS containers. Chlorine pulls the Chromium out of the alloy, contaminating the stored liquid and weakening the SS.


As long as you avoid Pb, most metals are safer to use with food and drink than plastics. They are also easier to recycle and have a longer usable life than plastics. They may be heavier, but I prefer metal flasks and cups over plastic.


A side-note on metals and water:
If you're using a good reverse osmosis (RO) system or a hearty de-ionization setup, the water coming out may be so clean that it can actually eat away at metal piping and containers. I've seen this on an industrial scale and it is possible on smaller sets; copper contamination in lab-grade pure water that was traced to a repair made with copper piping on a RO system.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Prudent Prepping: October Roundup


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

I haven't done a buffet post in a while, and both this week and last have been really filled with work. I'm tired and there are almost three weeks' worth of topics I don't have time to write, rolling around in my head and as notes in my tablet.

First up, the latest California oddity:

Fire Warning Blackouts Scheduled This Week
Yes friends, you read that correctly. Due to temperatures forecast to hit the low 90's by Friday with wind gusts to 60 mph at the higher elevations, Northern California is shutting off the power again. This time, nowhere near the 800,000 (that became 2 million) originally affected will be in the dark; only a mere 200,000 (maybe. You never know). 

The store I was in today sold 14 generators from Monday morning until I left Tuesday afternoon. I'm still seeing battery lanterns fly out of the stores, and I predict Eveready and Duracell stock will soar in price well before the normal Holiday buying spree.

Share The Knowledge
In my post last week I mentioned needing to find my prepping books. I found them in the bottom of a book tote, as they were on a small shelf beside my computer and so went into the bin first. This was poor planning on my part! I've been looking through the pile and what I found is what I think will be my recommended book for beginners, at least in my area where $13 for a book won't dent most peoples budget.

https://amzn.to/31E9ncv

When The Grid Goes Down (prophetic title, isn't it?) has very short chapters that include many lists, but it is presented in a style that doesn't make reading what is there boring.

From the Amazon page:
Disasters come and go each year. It is through developing a self-reliant mindset, having essential survival gear, and possessing a handful of critical skills that will enable you and your family to prevail in an urban crisis. Jammed with field-tested information from real-world applications, survival instructor Tony Nester covers how to prepare for both short-term survival ranging from 24-72 hours as well as long-term situations resulting from a grid-down emergency or pandemic.

Some of the chapters:
  • The 6 Key Areas for Creating a Self-Reliant Home
  • Water Storage and Purification Methods
  • Alternative Water Sources At Home
  • Creating a Water Map for Your Region
  • The 3 Essential Food Types to Stock Up On
  • Designing an Off-Grid Medical Kit
  • Home Security and Personal Defense Measures
  • Safeguarding the Exterior and Interior of Your Home
  • Heating, Cooling and Lighting When the Power Goes Out
  • Alternative Sanitation and Hygiene Methods.

I have to admit I had a hard time buying this paperback book sight unseen, since it cost $12.95 when I bought it and is now $13.56. At less than 80 pages, the Kindle version is a slightly better value at $4.49, but not by much.

Personal Comfort
I mentioned several weeks ago on the Facebook page that I'd seen markdowns being made on Mission Premium Cooling Towels in a Home Depot I service. I bought one and I like it! As was mentioned by Erin and others, these things only work in low humidity areas, like CA or AZ. Folks in humid areas of the South and Midwest won't benefit from putting a wet rag around their neck as the air is too damp to provide evaporative cooling.

https://amzn.to/2BD7xhr

I haven't seen them lately in stores, but Amazon has them!

From the Amazon page:
  • 100% Polyester
  • Machine Wash
  • Cools instantly to 30 degrees below average body temperature and stays cool for up to 2 hours when wet
  • To activate cooling technology simply soak in water, wring out and snap three times; to reactivate, simply re-soak and re-snap
  • Lightweight, premium stretch fabric with a textured, super-sporty look
  • Chemical-free, reusable and machine washable; permanent technology is incorporated at the fiber level and will never wash out
  • UPF 50 protection against the harmful rays of the sun; size 10" x 33"

Even though Fall is here, it looks like I will get at least one more week use from this before storing it in my warm weather gear box.

Takeaway And Recap
  • California is finally following the lead of other states and experiencing disasters regularly! My hope is this will spur more people to get serious about protecting their family.
  • Finding a suitable book to recommend is hard, and I need to start someplace.
  • The neck wrap is a luxury, but it does get hot and it works well.
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but Amazon has When The Grid Goes Down for $13.56 in paperback or Kindle for $4.46
  • Also on Amazon is the Mission Premium Cooling Towel for (more than I paid for mine, but well under retail) $10.51 with Prime.
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If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Stay With the Car

Every year in my part of the country, we hear tragic tales of tourists getting stranded and dying (or coming close) before they're found. If you're in the backcountry and your vehicle becomes disabled, what do you do?

The instinctive reaction from most folks is to leave the vehicle and try and hike out. This is one of the worst things you can do, and I'm going to tell you why:

Your car is easier to find than you.
A single human can very easily get lost, and is much harder to locate. Viewed from above, I occupy probably 3 square feet and have a matte finish; my truck occupies well over 100 square feet and is reflective. Additionally, I can only yell so loud and so often, whereas the horn on a vehicle carries further and can be used over a much longer time.

Your vehicle is a pretty good shelter. 
It will keep you dry in a storm, and if the engine runs you have some measure of climate control. Since most of these incidents seem to happen either in winter storms or desert environments, being able to keep warm or cool is a huge thing. You will also be more comfortable in your vehicle, sleeping better and keeping your wits more firmly about you.

Your vehicle also has all of your gear. 
If you leave your car, you have to leave substantial quantities of supplies that you may need. You can only carry about 25% of your body weight over any kind of distance, and that is with a proper pack. Loaded correctly and planning ahead, I can carry about 50 pounds; that sounds like a lot of weight, but keep in mind that a gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, and a gallon is about a day's supply under serious exertion! In the event that you're abandoning a vehicle, the odds of proper load-bearing gear being available are quite low, so that 50 pound capacity might fall to as low as 20 pounds.

If you stay with your vehicle, though, you have all of your gear at hand. You don't have to leave something potentially important behind because you have no way to carry it, or carry items you don't need on the off-chance that you might need them.

None of this applies if staying with your vehicle is a hazardous situation. 
Remaining in the path of a flood, or in an avalanche area, or with a dangerously damaged vehicle is a very bad plan. No matter how useful or easy to find your vehicle is, it's worthless if you're killed by a dangerous situation.


You may need to try to get yourself out of being stuck, but it should be your last resort, not your first.

Lokidude

Monday, October 21, 2019

Minimalist EDC Pts 3 and 4: Dry and Warm

The final installment of a series of minimalist planning, for those who have to carry everything with them everywhere they go.

This week: Keep dry and warm.



Godspeed to you all.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Importance of Faith

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Don't worry, this isn't going to be a lecture on religion. I'm the last person to tell you what you should believe. I just want to make two points about faith. 

First, I feel it's important that people believe in something. What that something might be is up to that individual to decide, as is how they practice that belief. The world can be a dreary, dreadful place at times, and during a disaster it can seem a lot darker. In a survival scenario it's practically necessary to believe in something that gives you hope and raises your spirits, because a positive mental attitude and a reason for living are the most important resources a survivor can have. 

I've struggled with depression most of my life, and even though I've never lacked food, water, shelter, clothing -- all the things needed for survival -- there were a few times where I strongly considered suicide because I had lost hope. If it's possible to contemplate suicide while having everything necessary for life, then being in a survival situation where those things are lacking only increases that chance for despair. You may die without water after three days, but three hours without hope can be just as deadly. 

Believe in something that uplifts you and rewards that faith. 

Second, don't be afraid to put faith in people. I don't mean all people, of course; there are plenty of human beings out there who don't deserve your faith, and a smaller (yet viler) percentage of them who will actively take advantage of you. No, what I mean is that you need to have people in your life whom you trust, and in whom you can put your faith. 

The more I learn about prepping, the more I am convinced that none of us can ever be self-sufficient by ourselves; there's simply too much for one person to do. Humans are social creatures by necessity; we lack the strength, speed, and natural weapons of most predators to survive alone. More than tool use, I believe that it's our ability to communicate and form tribes which makes humanity a successful species.

Find your tribe, cultivate them, and put your faith in them. 


Thank you for listening. I sincerely hope you have something you can believe in and people in whom your faith is secure. 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Drinking Container Safety: Common Materials

Erin mentioned some potential hazards from drinking out of plastic containers (BPA) and aluminum, and asked me to add to the list of do's and don'ts for choosing what to drink from. During my research I gathered more information than most people can absorb in one article, so I'm going to split the metals off into a separate post and cover the other common materials today. There may be a third article for uncommon materials if I dig up even more data.

Plastics
There are more kinds of plastic on the market than I care to list. Most plastics are petroleum-based, and the few that aren't are chemically similar to the petroleum-based plastics. Some plastics are made with or treated with BPA (Bisphenol A) or phthalates, both of which are endocrine disruptors (they mimic hormones produced by your body's endocrine or ductless glands). BPA is bad news and has received a lot of press over the last few years, so avoid it as best you can.

Plastics are formed by purifying and twisting basic hydrocarbons to create selected monomers. These monomers are then chemically or physically bonded together to form polymers (hence the use of the "poly-" in most names) with interesting properties.

Plastics are usually separated by the industry-standard recycling number stamped or cast into the plastic.

#1: PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
  • Clear and smooth, this is the plastic commonly used for single-use (disposable) soft drink bottles and peanut butter jars.  
  • Avoid prolonged heat, as that may cause harmful chemicals to leach out of the PET. 
  • Bacterial growth is more of a problem when reusing bottles that contained sugary drinks than any chemical hazards.

#2: HDPE (High-density Polyethylene)
  • Considered "Food grade" by the FDA, this is the safest choice. 
  • Milk and water jugs are normally made from HDPE, so it has a track record as a safe plastic to use with food and drink. 
  • Most 5-gallon buckets are made of HDPE. 
  • David's Nalgene bottle which he finally managed to break was made of HDPE.
  • PEX (cross-linked Polyethylene) water pipe is made of HDPE and is rated for hot and cold water.

#3: PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
  • The common water and sewer pipe plastic. When heated, PVC can release phthalates and other chemicals, which is why hot water piping requires the use of CPVC (Chlorinated PVC) pipe. CPVC is less likely to leach chemicals into the water inside it, so it is a safer choice.
  • PVC is also used in plastic films or sheets for things like shower curtains and cheap rain gear, but making it flexible requires the use of softening agents that can be harmful. Collecting water in a PVC poncho is less of a risk than trying to store water in a can lined with the poncho.

#4: LDPE (Low-density Polyethylene)
  • Typically used for films like bread wrappers, LDPE is normally a single-use plastic that is food safe. 
  • Thin films may be useful as a liner for a container, but will lack the strength to be of much use for storing or transporting water by themselves.

#5: PP (Polypropylene)
  • Available in a wide variety of types, PP is opaque or translucent and has a high melting point which makes it safe for microwaves and dishwashers.
  • One of the safer plastics available, you'll see it used in yogurt  and food containers. (In my opinion, yogurt isn't quite food, but it wants to be.)

#6: PS (Polystyrene)
  • Hard or foamed, PS is the common material found in plastic dinnerware and styrofoam cups. 
  • PS can release unpolymerized styrene, which is a slow poison that accumulates in a body's fat over time.
  • Handy as an insulator, but not a good choice for storing food or water.

#7: Mixed or Other
  • Literally mixed plastics of unknown origin. This one is a gamble, since you have no idea of what is in the mix.
  • If you see a "7" and the letters "PC" on a container, it means that it is made of Polycarbonate which is made using BPA. 
  • This is the "last resort" of plastics for food or water.

Naturals
Coconut shells, dried gourds, and folded leaves are all examples of natural cups.
  • If the material you've chosen comes from an edible part of a plant, it's safe to use as a cup as long as it hasn't started to rot.
  • Broad, smooth leaves will be safer than narrow, fuzzy ones because the "hairs" on leaves is where many plants keep their poisons. The fuzzy leaves also collect more dust and dirt that you'll have to clean out of your water before drinking it.
  • Leather can be used for short-term storage of liquids. The use of wine skins for several thousand years has proven that it's a safe choice.
  • Wood is usually a safe choice as there are few poisonous types of wood in the world, but avoid cedars, birches, and gum trees if you're making cups and bowls since they're all toxic. Some of the more exotic woods of the world are also toxic, but you're less likely to find them laying around.

Glass and Ceramics
  • While different materials, these are similar in structure and composition. Both are primarily made of silicon, a stable and abundant element.
  • Glass and glazed ceramics are smooth on the molecular level, leaving very little space for bacteria to grow. This also makes them easy to clean. 
  • Heavier than plastics and much more fragile, glass is a good option for stationary prepping (hunkering down or shelter in place) and long-term food storage like canned vegetables.
  • Unglazed and partially-fired ceramics are porous and will provide ample opportunity for nasty things to grow in your food and water. They are useful for transporting, but not for storing foods and water. 
  • Unglazed ceramics are a lot easier to make. Old-school crocks for making pickles and sauerkraut were often only glazed on the inside to save money in production while still being safe for food use.


Obviously,  if you have no other choices you'll use whatever you can find to hold water. This information is for when you have choices.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Earthquake! Part the Latest

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

Well, the post I wanted to make last week has been pushed back again. I wonder if the idea behind it should be shelved, since things are conspiring against turning it in...

Earthquake!
Yeah, we had a medium-size one last night, 4.5 on the Richter Scale; big enough to wake me up and shake up the dog, but not enough to break anything here. It was quite a surprise to our recently arrived from overseas house guest! They are used to typhoons, but the house shaking for no apparent reason was a novel experience for them, and there was a little squealing and shouting from one end of the house to the other, checking on everyone.

That by itself wasn't too bad, but the text messages coming in for the next hour wore me out. I was scheduled to start an hour early that morning so I really needed some sleep, but the check-ins were (and are) appreciated.

This past week has really been crazy at work. How crazy you ask? This crazy!

Prepping Without Knowing How
With PG&E's announcement of a preemptive power shutoff, flashlights and batteries sold out fast along with the normal stock of generators carried in local stores. Many people decided to place orders to guarantee having one in case the power actually went out in a larger area than was first outlined. From last Monday to this Wednesday morning, a local store ordered and sold 144 generators of several sizes. This morning, the store I was in sold out of generators again.

I believe the blackout, and now an earthquake, has really opened many peoples' minds to planning for a disaster. Thursday the 17th is the 30 year anniversary of the (almost Big One) Loma Prieta Earthquake, and on the U.S.G.S. website is an explanation of what happened -- and what will happen -- to this area in the future. I wrote about earthquake prepping and showed an animation in this post from last year that pretty accurately showed where things were shaking in last night's quake. Please read through the linked posts under "What To Do". My fellow bloggers show what, and also explain why, they do when planning for a disaster.

Blackout Update
P.G.&E has said that all but a few isolated areas will soon have power restored. Now that they have potentially prevented a fire similar to what So. CA. had this past weekend, the Governor is now demanding PG&E pay people affected by the blackouts $100 and businesses $250, while respected news outlets are questioning whether this situation is potentially the New Normal for California.

Here at Blue Collar Prepping we have a very strict 'No Politics' policy that is enforced for members and bloggers, so I am not blaming any party. What I am going to blame, however, is 50 years of forest mis-management (in my opinion) and short sighted business practices for contributing to the fires that have burned too many square miles, destroyed far too many structures, and killed so many people for far too long.

Be safe and be prepared.

Takeaway And Recap
  • Nothing was purchased for this week, but I'm being asked even more questions on where to start. I have to dig my prepping books out of the totes to see which might be a good beginner book.
* * *

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If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

The Fine Print


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