Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Peace on Earth

Goodwill to all... except for those who mean us harm.

Photo courtesy of Oleg Volk and used with permission. 
Stay prepared, friends.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Christmas Vacation

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I have given the blogging staff here at Blue Collar Prepping the rest of the year off. They've all worked very hard in 2019 -- they didn't even ask for a summer vacation -- and so they've earned a rest. Expect regular posts to return on January 6, 2020.

I need a vacation as well, as it's becoming increasingly difficult for me to find things to write about. We'll soon be wrapping up our sixth year of blogging here (our first post was Jan 26, 2014), and in that time we've covered a lot of subjects. While prepping is an ongoing process, the topics involved seem to be finite; however, my staff here have continued to impress me with their ability to find articles worth writing.

Before I turn out the lights for the year, here are some older posts which you might have missed (if you're new here) or forgotten about (if you're a longtime follower):

Gifts for Preppers by Chaplain Tim. You don't have many shopping days left until Christmas, but if you have Amazon Prime and order right now your packages might arrive on time... and if they don't, you can remind people that Christmas is a season, not a date, and according to the Church that season lasts until Epiphany, which is January 6, so as long as your present arrives before then you're technically not late!


Stocking Stuffers for Preppers by me. The same "Hurry and order now" advice applies here as well. Here's a bullet list for you impatient folks.
Other good things to put inside stockings are things which you can pick up at just about any grocery store, like batteries (AA or AAA), disposable lighters and rolls of duct tape. Did you know that duct tape is made of cotton and can be used as a fire starter?


Finally, Dealing with Holiday Stress and Depression is my article about Christmas self-care. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but in case you don't have the time here are the highlights:

  1. Keep your expectations balanced. 
  2. Don't try to do too much. 
  3. Stay warm. 
  4. Be aware of Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder.
  5. Understand that it's appropriate to mourn. 
  6. Watch your diet and remember to exercise.
  7. Don’t play the shame game. 
  8. Practice forgiveness, understanding, and avoidance.

That's all for now. From all of us, to all of you and yours -- Merry Christmas / Hannukah / Kwanzaa / Yule and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Militias: What They Are and What They Aren't

With the increase in rhetoric coming from both sides in the gun control arena, I'm seeing a lot more references to “militias” in the last few weeks. Some pro-gun people are calling for the formation of more militia units to prepare for anticipated “storm-troopers and jack-booted thugs” that are waiting for the orders to “come take our guns,” while the anti-gun crowd is proactively calling any armed resistance “terrorism”. In my opinion, both sides need to step away from this “inciting violence” level of talk before someone gets stupid and people get hurt, arrested, or both. 

As I posted a few months ago, there is a possibility for a large man-made disaster if any group of politicians decide that they can order the disarming of Americans on any scale. Such an order is laughably ignorant for reasons that I may expand upon in a future article, but that won't stop the hard-core tyrants from trying.

Since words have meanings and clear communications require that definitions be known, I'll try to settle a few misconceptions about militias. I will not be using any Wiki pages, since they are too easily modified to suit political agendas.

What is a Militia?
The definitions vary slightly from source to source, but a militia is generally seen as a group of able-bodied and armed people (men, originally) that can be called up by the government to defend an area or region. They are not a full-time part of the uniformed military services, but are available to supplement or assist those uniformed services.

The militia is divided into three classes:
  1. The Organized Militia, commonly known as the National Guard, which is funded and controlled by the Federal government. The NG and Reserves have taken on a large part of our war fighting in the last few decades, and are becoming less of a militia and more a part-time military branch.
  2. The Unorganized Militia or Reserve Militia, which is composed of all the other able-bodied men and women. This is the “bring your own gear” militia which can be called up by the government to assist regular troops.
  3. State Defense Forces, which are set up under state laws and are generally under the control of state governors. Poorly funded and generally small units, these are the “core” or cadre that will lead the Unorganized Militia in state call-ups.

What isn't a Militia?
  • A group of drunken idiots wandering around the woods playing soldier is not a militia. LARP (Live-Acton Role-Playing) is not real life; air-soft or paintball training will teach you bad habits that will get you killed in real combat.
  • A guerrilla or rebel force. Unconventional forces are covered under other specific laws and are treated differently than uniformed troops fighting under a nation's flag. The rules of warfare tend to apply only to international conflicts; internal fighting has to get to a pretty bad stage before the concept of “war” supplants “crime”.
  • “Private Militias”, aka armed groups that do not answer to a government. State laws vary, but they are generally subject to the same laws as any other civilian, meaning they have to obey the laws or be charged as criminals.
  • Mutual aid and defense groups. This is a newer concept and is still being worked on. Most of the groups that have an internet presence are based around minority groups that will come to the aid of each other to prevent or stop aggression. LGBTQ groups seem to be the leaders in the formation of Mutual Aid and Defense groups.
  • Levee en masse: armed citizens spontaneously resisting an invasion before the uniformed troops can get there. They're still afforded combatant status in international disputes, but such actions against the standing government have mixed results and tend to be classified as criminal. I say “tend to be” because the winner gets to write the history, so take any reports with a grain of salt.

Who is in the Militia?
  • In the USA, we have laws that define militias and those eligible to serve in them. The US Code of Federal Regulations lays out the requirements in Chapter 10. The short answer is “all able-bodied men (and some women) between the ages of 17 and 45” with some exceptions. 
  • There is no formal need to “join” a militia; most of us are already included.

Are Militias Legal?
Since they are named in several of our founding documents and are covered by several sections of Federal and state regulations, they are most definitely legal as long as they meet the criteria.

To be blunt about the whole militia movement: I see it as a call to join a group, which is subject to government duty, in order to resist an action by that same government. Calling such resistance a militia is either a mistake in comprehension or a verbal fig-leaf to cover up intended illegal acts. If your goal is to defy government rule, you don't get to call yourself a militia; there are other terms such as “freedom fighter” or “resistance fighter” that more accurately define your actions.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Prudent Prepping: a "Going" Affair

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 a follow-up to last week's post, detailing some of the things I'm doing now to be better prepared for similar 'issues' in the future.

What Now?
I need to be set up with things here and now to take care of intestinal distress not only inside me but also inside those around me. Since the focus of this blog is Emergency Preparedness, I don't see much difference if my distress is caused a virus or possibly bad water after a disaster. Yes, I understand that both of these situations could be closely related.

Since I was lucky to have Gatorade bottles here, that part of my recovery (mentioned last week) was an easy one. If there were an actual disaster, hauling bottles around would be the less than ideal; I need to have an easily portable way to replace minerals. I decided to order Dr. Price's Electrolyte Mix Super Hydration Formula to test out.

From the Amazon listing:
https://amzn.to/2Z2EXBe
  • THE HIGHEST QUALITY ELECTROLYTE HYDRATION FORMULA. Unlike many other supplements, Dr. Price's Electrolyte Mix has a blend of over 72 Trace Minerals and Electrolytes created to benefit individuals ranging from the elite athlete to your personal hydration needs.
  • NON-GMO, GLUTEN FREE, VEGAN, KETO & NO SUGAR! 100% Naturally Sweetened with Stevia Leaf Extract.
  • EASY TO USE! Convenient to-go packets that you can take anywhere.
  • Powdered water-soluble sports drink formula that mixes with liquid for FAST and EASY absorption.
  • Powdered water-soluble sports drink formula that mixes with liquid for FAST and EASY absorption., Balances and Restores HEALTHY Electrolyte Levels for Super Hydration. Minerals, including magnesium, sodium, and potassium. Trace elements of zinc and 72 other trace minerals.

I'll give this a taste test against Gatorade powder as soon as it arrives. Several people in the BCP Facebook group mentioned a sugar-free replacement drink, and that advice and info I have made this a fairly easy product to pick. If you know me you know that mineral replacement is the reason this was picked, not any of the points mentioned in the second bullet point. 

Going through my stores, I saw that my Imodium was out of date by 2 years. Now that isn't that big a deal for me, since it's stored in my house and not exposed to high heat, light or humidity., but I'm still going to replace it as soon as I can get to either CVS or Walmart and compare prices.

Recap and Takeaway
  • Having things on hand to make being sick bearable is much better than running around trying to buy them when you are 'running' uncontrollably.
  • A 30-count box of Dr. Price's Vitamins was ordered from Amazon: $12.88 with Prime shipping.
  • The balance of the replacements will be purchased locally.

***

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, December 17, 2019

Knife and Hand Safety Review

Last week, one of my co-workers left work to get medical attention for a hand injury. He was stripping insulation from a large wire with a razor knife when his blade slipped and he hit himself in several places along his hand. He lost part of his fingertip, had cuts across his palm, and bled all over.

Behind this link is a NSFW picture of my coworker's injured hand. Note the chunk missing from his finger, as well as the cuts on his palm. While not crippling, it was a rather painful injury. In an attempt to keep all of our readers safe from similar injuries, now seems a prudent time to review knife and hand safety:
  • A pair of cut-resistant gloves, or at least sturdy leather work gloves, might have prevented all of my co-worker's blood loss.
  • Awareness of where your hand is in relation to potential danger points will also prevent the vast majority of injuries and near misses. If your hands aren't in a position to be hurt, injury is impossible.
  • Proper stretching won't prevent cuts, but it will prevent strains and sprains and other soft tissue injuries.
Basic knife safety rules also work wonders at preventing injuries. They were drilled into me at a young age by both my grandfathers and the By Scouts, but some folks didn't have those advantages. This video from Schrade Knives covers the topic thoroughly, but let's hit the high points.



Keep your knife sharp and clean.
A dull knife requires more force to make cuts, greatly increasing the chance of slipping and hurting yourself. They also make jagged, nasty cuts that heal more slowly and less completely. Dirty knives can lead to nasty infections if a cut occurs.

My coworker's knife was incredibly sharp, as the picture above shows; he had just put in a fresh razor blade. While the cuts are nasty, they're clean and should heal nicely.

Cut away from your body. 
A cutting motion that pushes away from your body ensures that your knife won't hit your body if you do slip.

Maintain and enforce a "Circle of Blood."
While you're keeping yourself out of harm's way, be sure to keep all other people outside of the reach of your blade. Hurting someone else is just as bad as hurting yourself. The "Circle of Blood" is any place your blade can reach, and you can find it by extending the hand holding the blade to its full length and then slowly turning in place. Teenage and preteen boys love the term, so it's very easy to get it, and knife safety, to stick in their minds that way.


Look out for yourself and anybody else in range.

Lokidude

Monday, December 16, 2019

Vehicle Reveal: Detroit Gambler 500, Part 2


It’s a cute little SUV, but when we’re done getting it ready for the Detroit Gambler 500...

... who am I kidding? It’ll still be cute!

Merry Christmas!





Godspeed to you all.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Prudent Prepping: To Live and Die In Glacier Bay

Me, on better days than this week
The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping. 

Yes, I'm feeling better now. I'm not at 100%, but at least I'm vertical.

This will be a short report on what happened this past week, to the best of my recollection. That is, if I can remember. Things were a little fuzzy, and not just my tongue.

Glacier Bay

What Happened
I started to feel a little poorly Sunday and still went in to work on Monday. By Tuesday noon I was really feeling crappy (heh!); once I got home everything went south at once -- vomiting and diarrhea combined. It was so bad that I ended up sitting all night on the bathroom floor, wrapped in a blanket, because every 30 minutes I needed to be in there anyway, so why not get comfortable... for certain values of comfortable, at any rate.

What I Did
  • I made sure that my friends knew I was sick -- but not dying, no matter what it sounded like from my end of the house! 
  • I drank small amounts of water, even if it wasn't going to stay around long, to prevent 'dry heaves' which can damage internal organs if they go on long enough.
  • I did not try to take any anti-nausea medicines at this time, because nothing was staying in long enough to take effect.

What Helped, part 1
After most of the vomiting stopped, I did take some anti-diarrhea medicine which helped a little. How much, I'm not exactly sure. I keep ginger beer here a regular mixer, so I tried to drink some after shaking it up to knock out the carbonation. Some good old-fashioned saltine crackers were washed down with small amounts.

What really helped was being able to sleep in a bed for about 10 hours straight without running to the bathroom.

What I Did Next
I kept on trying small amounts of ginger beer and crackers until Thursday night, when I made oatmeal. Plain, no milk or sugar, just steel cut oats. That was my first real food in a while.

What Helped, part 2
After making sure food was going to stay in longer than an hour, I started looking for things to get my stomach back to as normal as possible as soon as possible. Since I like ginger soda, I also have ginger teas here.

If you don't know, ginger is a folk medicine that has a world-wide reputation for calming upset stomachs. Along with that I have black tea, which when allowed to cool is also good for stomachs. I was reminded of this by a commenter on the Blue Collar Prepping Facebook page!

I then added Gatorade to the mix to restore minerals that I lost. Normally I have the powder in my kit, but it was getting close to expiring so it was donated. Some plain yogurt was added to the oatmeal for an additional boost to rebuilding my digestive system. So far, everything is staying where it belongs.

I went to work today, still feeling tired and very much dehydrated, but vertical and able to do my job.


Thanks to everyone who offered advice and suggestions on how to recover. I will be taking it to heart and modifying my at-home meds with anti-diarrhea pills and some different sports drinks, one without sugar this time.

You all are the best!


Thursday, December 12, 2019

Getting Home by Rail

"Getting home or bugging out to a safe(r) spot" is one of the more common topics for prepper articles. Travel after a disaster or emergency has different challenges than a daily commute, so we try to look ahead and plan around those challenges: roads jammed with traffic after a hurricane; bridges closed or damaged by floods, earthquakes, or fire; civil disturbances that make travel through an area unwise; they, and a host of other conditions, could make you consider getting off the paved roads and finding another route to your destination. One option to explore is the railroads.

My father retired from one of the major US railroads after 30 years, so I was raised with an awareness of railroads and routes. I'm also old enough to remember going to the centennial celebration of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1969 held in the town where the eastern section began. Railroads have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

Since the creation of Amtrak by Congress in 1970 ended private passenger rail service, the quantity and quality of passenger service has declined, and with the increase in Over The Road (OTR) trucking in the same time-frame, even the freight services are dying off. The total miles of rails have been shrinking for decades, but there are still a lot in place and many of the abandoned lines have been repurposed as biking/hiking trails. The most recent number I could find was from 2014 when we had about 137,000 miles of active track in the USA.

Can I get there from here?
  • There are a few online resources for rail maps, the best I've found so far are OpenRailwayMap and RailMapOnline. The first is an interactive map of the entire USA, while the second covers the western part of the US and most of Britain and Europe. Google of course will show rail lines on their maps, but the routes may be a bit hard to pick out from all of the clutter.
  • Abandoned tracks that have been converted to trails can be found at RailsToTrails.us and RailsToTrails.org (those are two different sites despite the similar names). 
  • For local travel, keep an eye on your area's tracks and bridges. Things do change over time, and the railroads don't advertise those changes.

Why follow the rails?
  • Railroads maintain their own tracks and right-of-way (ROW), so well-traveled routes will be kept clear even if the local infrastructure is overwhelmed by a disaster. After the last few floods around me, the railroads were always able to open their lines before the roads were cleared.
  • Rails are easy to follow, even in the dark. Those two steel rails are pretty obvious once you get close to them. The ROW is usually covered with coarse rock and sprayed with a blend of chemicals that prevents any weeds from growing for a year, so they'll be easy to walk along.
  • Many tracks have a maintenance road that runs parallel to the rails. They're usually rough gravel roads, but they are smoother than the tracks and ties.
  • Railroads build their own bridges. If you have waterways to cross in your journey, knowing where an alternate bridge is may be helpful. Rail bridges are also built to handle a lot more weight than most normal traffic bridges and are usually better constructed. 

What are the downsides?
  • Tracks and their ROW are private property. Legally, walking alongside the tracks is trespassing, and so state and federal laws apply. Did you know that the railroads have their own police forces?
  • Walking on the rails can be very dangerous. Trains don't stop quickly, and by the time the engineer sees a person on the tracks all he can do is call for an ambulance. I have a cousin who used to drive trains, and some of the things he saw still give him nightmares.
  • The coarse rock used around rails is not easy to walk on, so wear good boots with ankle support and watch your step. Bicycles and motorcycles with soft tires will do okay; four-wheeled vehicles may have to move slowly and watch for narrow spots in the ROW.
  • Don't be that guy and try to use a compass to figure out which way the tracks are running while standing on them. Those long steel tracks will definitely screw up a compass, so walk several yards away before trying to read one.
  • Tracks are often elevated above the local terrain, so walking along them will not be very stealthy. If you're trying to sneak, stay off the tracks and use the ROW.

As an alternate route after TSHTF, keep railroads in mind. Be safe and respect the danger of traveling where trains have the “right of weight”.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Return of Norovirus

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
David is out sick today. Based on the symptoms he describes, it sounds like he has a case of Norovirus, which I had the "pleasure" of encountering in February 2017.

The good news for David is that it ought to have run its course by now, or at the latest tomorrow morning.

The bad news is that he's going to be absolutely miserable until then.

Posted here is a recap of my experience, as well as some advice on recovery afterwards.



As I mentioned in earlier, I came down with a stomach bug the last day of MAG40 that left me dehydrated and going at both ends -- often simultaneously.

While I don’t know what it was that I have, my best guess is Norovirus, aka the “Winter Vomiting Bug”. It’s commonly caused by fecal contamination of food, touching a contaminated surface and then your mouth, or directly from another sick person.

Norovirus is a viral buzzsaw that rips through close collections of people, like classrooms or people on cruise ships.

Based on my close, intimate relationship with Norovirus, the biggest problem with it is dehydration. I was desperately thirsty and my mouth was full of cotton, but I couldn’t take more than a few swallows without upsetting my stomach and triggering another vomiting session.

Worse, diarrhea causes an electrolyte imbalance within the body, which in turn creates more diarrhea. In other words, diarrhea is self-perpetuating, so for those who are curious, you can indeed shit yourself to death.

What’s more, after a case of Norovirus the gastrointestinal tract may be severely inflamed, or not used to digesting food, and may need to be re-started. So what’s a prepper to do?

Obligatory disclaimer: I am not a trained health professional, do not take this as strict medical advice, consult your doctor if you have an erection for more than four hours.

First, always have an antidiarrheal medicine, like Immodium AD, in both your bug-out and get-home bags. Heck, after this weekend I’m keeping several doses in my every day carry kit. Oof.

Second, have a way to get electrolytes back into your system. Since you’re trying to prevent dehydration at the same time, the best way to do that is through liquids. I’m a big fan of Gatorade, but any sport drink will do, as will Pedialyte for children and of course regular old water. You can also buy packages of oral rehydration salts from Amazon -- just mix them with clean water and you’re good to go. They’re light enough that you could fit them into any bug out or get home bag.

There are however some liquids to avoid:
  • Milk, because while you may not normally be lactose intolerant, your digestive tract may not be able to process milk in your weakened state.
  • Alcohol and caffeine, because both of these substances also contribute to dehydration and would only make things worse.
  • Excessively sugary drinks like soda and fruit juices, because while sugar is important in electrolyte solutions, too much has the opposite effect. Avoid any liquid that has more than 3% sugar in it.
  • Don’t use artificial sweeteners, either, as those often have a laxative effect.
Third, when it comes time to eat -- and it may be days before you want to think about food -- it’s best to start small. There’s something called the BRAT diet - Bananas, rice, applesauce, toast - which is supposed to be easy on sensitive guts. Other foods which are good for recovering digestive tracts are oatmeal, boiled potatoes, plain crackers, and baked chicken without skin or fat. You’ll notice that a lot of these ingredients are in that universal antidote, chicken soup.

Preppers ought to consider adding some packages of oatmeal and chicken broth to their bug-out bags, and perhaps some dehydrated bananas as well.

Finally, keep a dark-colored washcloth in your various bags. Don’t use it for regular hygiene of the hands or face; use it just for cleaning “down there.” When the S hits the F, it’s good to have a soft, absorbent, dark-so-it-won’t-stain cloth to clean that S from your body.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Guest Post: Pros and Cons of the .350 Legend cartridge

by George Groot

George is a member of our Facebook Group and has written for us before.

The AR-15 platform has a number of cartridge options other than the 5.56x45mm/.223 Remington option: .300 BLK, 6.5mm Grendel, 6.8mm SPC, 7.62x39mm, and as far as I know the now-defunct Olympic Arms crammed the entire family of Winchester Super Short Magnums into the rifle . Every single one of these options is superior to the 5.56 in some way, but generally inferior when it comes to price and parts compatibility.

Of all the other options, only the .300 BLK and 7.62x39 enjoyed some sort of widespread adoption, the others remaining niche builds for niche people. The 7.62x39 builds lack bolt face standardization, but other than that it benefits from reasonably-priced import ammunition for plinking.

The reason that the .300 Blackout is so widely adopted is that it does a few things well:
  • The only difference from an AR in 5.56 is the barrel; all other parts are the same, which makes it a cheap buy or build. 
  • The brass can be made from cheap surplus 5.56, and manufactures can make .300 Blackout from the same manufacturing line as normal 5.56. 
  • Hunting laws in some states require a .24 cal/6mm or larger cartridge for hunting anything but varmints. 
So the lesson to be learned from this is that price is probably the number one factor in widespread adoption of a non-5.56 option for an AR-15 pattern rifle.

Pluses and Minuses
This brings us to the .350 Legend cartridge. It has all of the same advantages as .300 BLK  (with one caveat about magazines), but does so with a larger bullet which is better suited to hunting large game and is hunting legal in states that require “straight wall” center fire cartridges. The .350 Legend equals the energy and ballistics of the venerable .30-30 quite nicely, but from a 4” shorter barrel. The relatively slow 1:16 twist rate is well suited to even cast bullets at full velocity from the cartridge.

The downside is the aforementioned caveat about magazines. Standard milspec 5.56x45 magazines will not work with the .350 Legend, and must be modified. There are plenty of YouTube videos on how to do this, but needing to split your stock of magazines between 5.56 and .350 Legend could be a deal breaker for some. However, for hunting a 5-round commercial magazine is all you’ll need for anything antlered, and for hunting feral hogs modifying a few 30-round magazines would likely be the least expensive part of any given hunting trip.

Interesting Points
I prefer the .350 Legend to the .300 BLK because it eliminates the possibility of using the wrong cartridge with the wrong barrel. Some folks have messed up and fired a .300 BLK in a 5.56 chamber, with predictably catastrophic results; others are careful to mark magazines and ensure proper ammunition segregation so that mismatches don’t happen. However, due to cartridge length, you cannot load a .350 Legend into a 5.56/.223 chamber.

It remains to be seen whether or not the .350 Legend goes on to more widespread commercial adoption, or falls into a “niche” like the .35 Whelen, .358 Winchester, and .35 Remington before it. The .35/9mm bore has not been a hit with American sportsman over the .30 caliber options of .30-06, .308 Win, and .30-30 Win (the  direct competitor of .35 Rem in the lever gun market).

However, people who own, shoot, and hunt with the .35 caliber family have been quietly keeping it alive and in the American market for decades now, so there is always the possibility of a broader adoption of the .350 Legend. Even if there is not widespread adoption, ammunition is easily crafted from readily available components. For a hunter, less than 200 rounds a year would be sufficient for nearly anything that requires a tag, and easily assembled over a weekend.

If you already have a .30-30 lever rifle, there is no need to go out and purchase the parts to assemble a .350 Legend unless you just want to, because ‘Murica. But, if you happen to find yourself in the market for a lightweight, ergonomic carbine for hunting, the .350 Legend is a great option to fill that niche from a ballistics standpoint if you handload or don’t mind paying for commercial ammo.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

A Good Fall Coat

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
It's December, and while for most of the country that means freezing temperatures, for those of us in Central Florida it means that it's sufficiently cool in the mornings and evenings to need a jacket -- in other words, fall weather. Unfortunately, I've yet to find a store which sells a proper "fall coat" which protects against wind and rain without also being so insulated that I start sweating after a while.

However, there's a solution to this dilemma and it's form an unlikely source. My fall coat is actually a military surplus German army field jacket which, despite being called a parka, is simply a water resistant shell. By itself it keeps me warm and dry down to the mid-60s, and past that I layer up with a sweatshirt or other thermal fleece underneath it. These layers keep me warm until the temperatures hit the 40s, at which point I break out my true winter coat.

While anyone can make a fall coat by pairing a waterproof windbreaker with a fleece, I am particularly enamored of my flecktarn (that's German for "mottled camouflage") jacket because of the other options it has:
  • zippered vents under the armpits to allow for ventilation and reduce sweating;
  • drawstrings at the hood, midline, and hem;
  • and most importantly, a double zipper which allows me to zip my jacket closed up to my neck, then unzip it from the bottom to my hips. This allows me to quickly and easily access my concealed pistol if I need to defend myself, while at the same time keeping me warm. 
If you're looking for a lightweight coat to keep you warm and dry during the fall, I highly recommend a field jacket like this. You'll get many years of use out of it and won't regret the investment.

Available at Amazon with Prime shipping for $40



Thursday, December 5, 2019

Blizzards (not from Dairy Queen)

Up here in the northern plains we have a weather condition that most of the country doesn't have to deal with: blizzards. The definition of a blizzard is “a severe snowstorm characterized by strong sustained winds of at least 56 km/h (35 mph) and lasting for a prolonged period of time” and I've seen more than a few. 
  • 1977 was a nasty one, with no school for a week and the Interstate highways were closed for three days; secondary roads didn't get cleared for a week and some of the country roads were buried for three weeks. 
  • 1986 was a sudden blast that surprised a lot people. I was visiting my parents and couldn't make it to the highway for two days. Power lines went down in both of those storms, adding to the experience. 
  • 2010 gave us a 12 hour storm that shut down all travel for a day and slowed everything for another three days. If you have a spare hour to watch a documentary, here's one about a blizzard that hit shortly before my time (1949).
We don't normally see the huge snowfalls that occur in the mountains, measuring our normal accumulations in inches rather than feet. We do however see at least one good blizzard up here every year, with the bad years giving us one or two a month from December to March. The natives are used to it and tend to be prepared, but the transplants from the warmer states need to experience one or two blizzards to get the hint.

Snow
We're not talking about the Christmas card type of snow! Blizzards tend to hit hard and fast. Wet air from the Gulf of Mexico meeting cold air from the North Pole is a recipe for snow, and fly-over country is where the two like to dance. Thunder and lightning during a snowstorm is usually a bad sign, since they're indications that there is a lot of energy built up in the storm clouds, so thundersnow is a warning that you need to check your supplies.

A typical blizzard for my area will have 12-20 inches of snow over a day or two, which is enough to cause “white-out” conditions, which is when you look out the window and don't see anything but snow. Falling and blowing snow can cut visibility to less than 10 feet, so travel is not an option.

Wind
The dangerous part of a blizzard is the wind. Once the snow stops falling, the wind pushes it around into drifts that reform as soon as they are cleared. The winds coming down out of Canada have few natural barriers, so anything that sticks up more than a couple of feet will create a drift.

For those of you who have never seen much snow, think of sand dunes and how they shift and form; snow drifts form from the same action of wind, but being made of smaller particles they form faster and have a higher angle of repose which allows them to build to higher, steeper, piles. Sustained winds will reform drifts over roads almost as fast as a plow can clear them, and I've seen this happen many times.

Preparation
How do we prepare for weather like this? The basics don't change: food, water, shelter, and heat are the priorities. There are plenty of articles in our archives that cover these areas, so use the search box in the upper left corner if you want to see them.

Blizzards are a good reason for "bugging in" because "bugging out" is no longer an option. I keep a stocked pantry and more warm clothes/blankets than I really need on hand to stay fed and warm. Water isn't much of an issue as long as it's snowing and my house has a steep roof to shed snow. I also have a good library to keep me entertained, and I can read by oil lamps if the power goes out.

The one abnormal thing that we have to deal with is other people. I live near an Interstate highway, and the DOT installed gates on it a few years ago. When the weather gets too bad, they close the highway and force all of the traffic into small towns. We have limited motel rooms available, so the local community center and high school get turned into emergency shelters for stranded travelers. Society has evolved past the point of people taking strangers into their homes, but if there is any shared relationship or good common friends, it can still happen.


Here's to hoping we have a quiet winter, but preparing for whatever comes our way.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Prudent Prepping: A Day Late ...

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

I find the strangest things when I go through Big Box stores: copper baking sheets, Keurig coffee machines, and 4' tall stuffed animals are just the start. In all that mix I somehow missed a practical item hidden in the middle of it all!

Phos-Check Wildfire Home Defense
If it's not obvious why I titled this post "A Day Late", it started raining last week. I would have liked to see, and maybe had someone give, an actual real-world test of the product's ease of application. (I hope I never need to see if it really works.)

The website for Phos-Check Wildfire Home Defense is well laid-out, and easy to get to all the necessary pages.

my picture
Here are excerpts from their FAQ page:

From the webpage:

PHOS-CHEK HOME WILDFIRE DEFENSE is applied as a liquid and works wet or dry. Once the retardant is properly applied to the fuels it will remain effective until washed off by water. The retardant is effective on any cellulose fuel (vegetation, wood, etc.) and works by changing the chemical decomposition process when the treated fuel comes in contact with an active flame. The surface of the treated fuel is turned into a non-flammable carbon which will not carry flame, keeping the fire from spreading to the next fuel source and slowing and/or stopping the fire spread.

This is a product that several local friends would have looked at very seriously this past summer and fall, even though we here were on the very southern edges of the actual fire zones. Once it is advertised correctly, I believe it will be a product that the Big Box stores will move by the case. Since it can be applied to small areas with easily used sprayers, I see no reason for average people to not use it around suburban fence lines or open areas between houses.

Please look at all the information there and if you can't use it, tell those you know who live in a high fire area to check it out.

Recap and Takeaway
  • Nothing was purchased this week, and it is unlikely I will be buying any prepping gear for the balance of December.
  • I find the idea behind PHOS-CHEK WILDFIRE HOME DEFENSE very interesting as an environmentally friendly way to protect your property.
  • Phos-Chek can be ordered from Amazon for $44.98 with Prime, or found in (my area) Home Depot stores for the same price.
    * * *

    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, December 3, 2019

    2 Stroke or 4?

    Most gas engines are fairly simple beasts: you fill the tank, you keep up on the oil changes, and everything is happy. Sometimes, though, you'll find an engine that doesn't have an oil reservoir, or has something like 50:1 on the fuel cap. These engines still require oil, but use it mixed with their gasoline.

    Engines that require mixed gas are referred to as 2 cycle engines. Ones that don't, like the one in your car, are referred to as 4 cycle engines. A 4 cycle engine uses 4 cycles or "strokes" to make power:
    1. The intake stroke pulls air and atomized fuel into the cylinder. 
    2. The compression stroke applies pressure to the fuel/air mix, making it far easier to ignite. 
    3. The ignition or power stroke is where the spark plug ignites the fuel, driving the piston down and generating power.
    4. Finally, the exhaust stroke moves hot air out of the cylinder and engine and into the exhaust system.

    A 2 cycle engine consolidates those cycles by combining intake and compression, and then ignition with exhaust. This makes a very simple, lightweight engine, but at the cost of power and fuel efficiency. Some off-road motorcycles also employ these engines, but most two cycle engines today are seen in yard tools like weed eaters and leaf blowers, and notably in chain saws. This is a very good set of animations demonstrating the 2 and 4 cycles in action.



    Where a 4 cycle engine uses a separate oil reservoir for lubrication, a 2 cycle engine uses the oil mixed into the fuel. The owner's manual (and usually a sticker or engraving on the engine) will tell you the proper mix ratio. Using too little oil will under-lubricate the engine, causing premature wear and failure, but too much oil will burn very dirty, fouling the spark plug and generally running horribly. Stihl (a popular power equipment company) has a great set of instructions on how best to actually mix your oil, and AMSOIL has a comprehensive chart listing all the most common mixing ratios and the actual quantities of oil and gas needed (saves me the math!).

    Mix your gas right to keep your equipment running long and strong. Your snowblower will keep your driveway clear, and your chainsaw will rapidly clear debris after a storm.

    Lokidude

    Monday, December 2, 2019

    Let’s Carry Less!

    Carrying less is the way to go!

    In this first installment of my new series of minimalist carry, I’m starting with the basics: a bag to carry it all.



    Godspeed to you all.

    The Fine Print


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