Monday, May 25, 2020

DIY Bacon Grease Suet Treat

You know how I like to take care of my ladies and not to waste anything. Here’s a little treat I whipped up for them.

Godspeed to you all.

Friday, May 22, 2020

My Aching Back

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
As many of you may have noticed, I didn't post last week. The reason for that is the title of this post: I was in such pain that I couldn't think straight, and that pain lasted basically the entire weekend.

(Yes, insert joke about how a prepper really should have a backlog of posts ready to go for moments like this. I completely agree. The problem is finding the time to create such a backlog in the first place.)

According to the doctors, I have osteoarthritis in my lumbar region. I've had this for a while now; I can recall back as early as 2013 that my lower back would stiffen and almost lock up when I would be washing dishes at the sink, or when vacuuming the house. I chalked this up to getting older, gaining weight, and not being in the best shape I could be in. The problem is that it's gotten worse over the years, and now it's to the point where if I walk more than a hundred yards I can feel it stiffening up. Once I reach that point, I need to sit down and rest for a few minutes so that my back can relax. If I don't, the pain gets worse and worse until not only is my back screaming at me but it is also physically painful to lift my legs enough to walk. After walking the dogs last Friday I had to crawl to my chair from the front door.

As you can imagine, this condition puts rather a large dent in my prepping plans. The way it stands right now, if I have to walk any distance at all I'm likely to be screwed; if I have to walk (or run!) a significant distance to reach safety I have to hope that the adrenaline rush will carry me, and in any "long walk home" scenario my need to rest will slow me down and extend the time it takes to get there.

What's more, my back pain is also aggravated by having to lift heavy things. My Get Home Bag is still pretty heavy, so lifting the bag plus walking with it on my back it is currently a recipe for disaster. This is the main force driving me to lighten my GHB.

At this point there really isn't anything that can be done to fix my pain; we can only treat the symptoms. I was prescribed a topical gel to help reduce pain and inflammation, and was told to lose weight and do yoga for flexibility. I am... skeptical... about yoga, but that's been on hold and will continue to be on hold until this COVID-19 mess goes away. Losing weight is a goal of mine, and it's something that I've been working on for a while now, but I have absolutely no willpower when it comes to resisting evening snacks.

Here's how all of this relates to prepping:
  • Take care of your body. You only get one and it's with you your entire life. 
  • If you have chronic or persistent pain in your back after doing X activity, see a doctor about it immediately. You want to get started treating it sooner rather than later. 
  • If you're overweight, work to lose it. I'm not about to fat-shame anyone; I'm just stating the obvious that "The less weight your body is carrying, the less strain on it and the easier your life will be." 
  • Maintain mobility. If I had to bug out on foot right now, I don't know how far I'd make it other than "not very far."
  •  Make sure you can lift your pack and walk with it.

I don't know how disabled people prepare for evacuation, but I worry I may soon become one. If you're a disabled prepper, I'd love to hear your advice and stories. I'd also love to hear from you if you have overcome back problems. 

Until then, I'm going to be hobbling around the neighborhood, trying to get my flexibility... back. (Pun intended.)

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Perfect Enough

The title of this article is one of the sayings soldiers once used to determine that a job was done: "It may not be perfect, but it is close enough that it will work." This is an acceptable goal for preppers since most of us aren't experts in everything and don't have unlimited money to buy the very best of everything we might need.

Another way to express this thought is “Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. If you can't settle for anything other than perfection, you're going to spend a lot of your life being disappointed. Life doesn't always allow for perfection, and the pursuit of it can lead to results that are worse than “good enough”. Talk to any artist who works with a physical medium (painter, sculptor, woodworker, etc.) and they'll probably tell you that they have to set down their tools before they're completely satisfied with most of their work. There comes a time where any more “fine touches” will start to chew away at the majority of the work they've already done. I know this may be hard for some of you, but you have to get your mind set to accept that if something works, it's good enough.

Here are a few examples of what I mean, as they pertain to prepping.

Perfect water doesn't exist outside of a chemistry lab, so you're drinking “good enough” water on a daily basis. Your choice of filter or chemical treatment has to be as good as you can get it, but trying to attain perfection will slow you down and may end up wasting water that is good enough to keep a person alive.

Most filtration systems have a back-flush or cleaning cycle that takes clean water and uses it to purge the contaminants from the filter. Your home water softener is an example; it uses water to recharge the resin in the “bed” that traps the nasty chemicals you're trying to remove. Reverse Osmosis and Micro-filtration have a set percentage of “blow-by” water that won't pass through the membranes and is used to carry away the contaminants, and that water is wasted because it won't be available for you to drink or cook with.

Stop and talk to the people stocking the produce section of your local grocery store some time, and they'll tell you how much they throw away every day because of minor imperfections that have no effect on the taste or nutrition of the fruits and vegetables. If you're growing your own food, you'll be a lot less picky about what you'll put on the table, and the people sitting at your table will learn to eat what is put in front of them.

A lot of people would prefer to live in a mansion in Hollywood with servants and groundskeepers to do all of the menial work. That may be possible, but it isn't probable for 99% of the population. Find something that is “good enough” and falls within your budget.

Emergency shelter is similar. I have friends who might go “glamping” (glamorous camping) with a huge camper outfitted better than most apartments, but they wouldn't know what to do with a tent. As long as the shelter serves its purpose of keeping the elements off of you and your stuff, it's “good enough”. I've slept in 4-star hotels, on the bare dirt under a tarp, and everything in between. Shelter is one of the things that can be improved while still in use, so you can keep pushing closer to “perfect” while you're living with “good enough”.

While I'd love to have a rifle capable of putting every bullet into the bullseye at 1000 yards, I realize that neither my budget nor my eyes are up to the task. My bolt-action rifle with a good scope is more accurate than I am, so it is “good enough”. Yes there are better rifles out there, but I don't need them.

Pistols are a very subjective choice, so the idea of a “perfect” pistol is a fallacy. I own and carry what I can afford to shoot. Practice will make more improvement than buying a more expensive pistol.

Only you can decide which firearm is best for you. If all you can afford is a cheap revolver or Hi-Point, learn how to use it well and it should serve its purposes. I'm not saying you have to settle for something that doesn't work -- there is crap out there on the market, after all -- but rather that once you find one that does work, you should at least be content with it before looking for the next best thing.

Look at your preps and your goals, take a good look at them, and decide which are good enough. Then, leave those alone while you work on another part that isn't quite up to that standard. Don't waste time and money chasing perfection in one area while others are lacking.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Summer Shift

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

I've started changing out my GHB gear from what I carry for winter in California to what is needed for summer. Certain folks have mentioned that changing for the seasons means wearing socks with sandals when it is "California Cold," but I always have socks in my gear since I never know when it'll drop below 50°!

Summerizing my Get-Home Bag and Vehicle
What's changed? Not that much, really: a wool sweater is out, and a long-sleeve t-shirt replaces it. Two pair of wool socks stay, along with the rain gear, because even if it doesn't rain during the summer here, it can be very foggy and damp along the coast. I have been an "essential employee" all during the virus panic, so there hasn't been any down time for me or my car. After checking dates on the food I carry, my bag is ready to go.

On to the car, which is getting a new set of wiper blades, washer fluid and an oil change. Blades and fluid are purchased, and oil is going to be fixed this week. I have to do a little bit of work before installing the wiper blades, though; due to the parking area at work being surrounded by pine trees, I have sap all over my car and several dents from green pine cones. My first job is cleaning the windshield of tiny droplets of sap that prevent the blades from clearing the glass well, and after that I have to do the rest of the car with Tar and Sap remover.

Coolant level, belt (singular), tire pressure and battery are checked out and in good shape, but I'm due for a major service soon, so I'm budgeting for that.

What's Happening
There was an unusual situation last week at work: an employee got dizzy and felt sick. No, it wasn't the virus, it was dehydration. Now that sounds somewhat funny to me since it hasn't been hot here; what has happened, though, is the requirement to wear a mask while working. It seems that the employee in question had been taking breaks but not drinking any water between those breaks.

Just as a reminder, the standard for water consumption is '8 glasses a day', which is 64 oz or two quarts. Now before anyone gets jumpy, that is a general guideline and YMMV, as the Mayo Clinic states in this article. An excerpt:

How much water do you need?

Every day you lose water through your breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. For your body to function properly, you must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water.
So how much fluid does the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need? The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:

  • About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
  • About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages and food. About 20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks. 
Further down in the linked article it explains that as long as you don't feel thirsty and your urine is clear to light yellow, you are doing okay. None of this is a hard and fast rule, so adapt your drinking to your personal situation.

I admit that finding the time or place to drink when wearing a mask has been hard, since before this I just grabbed a water bottle and drank on the floor. Now that isn't quite so easy, since a local store was fined $5,000 for employees not properly wearing masks. I'm not drinking as much water as before, and I expect that many others are in the same boat; as it warms up, I believe that dehydration may unfortunately become more and more common.

Recap And Takeaway
  • Don't neglect your car preps, even if you're not driving much. There can still be an emergency that requires you to go somewhere quickly. 
  • If you have to work, don't neglect drinking enough water to keep you healthy, no matter how much or little that is.
  • Wiper blades and fluids were purchased locally from an independent auto parts store. 
* * *

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, May 19, 2020

Geocaching as a Preparedness Skill

I recently  read an article which pointed out that 2020 is the 20th anniversary of the GPS game known as geocaching. This made me realize that my first geocaching find was almost 17 years ago, and that blew me away! Thinking about all of this made me realize there are some valuable skills that can be gleaned from a fun outdoors game.

The obvious first skill is proficiency with your GPS unit or the GPS on your phone. You'll learn to quickly and cleanly use its various features, as well as setting routes, waypoints, and the like. Land navigation is a valuable skill, and geocaching is a fun, cheap way to practice.

Secondly, geocaching teaches some gray man skills. Geocachers refer to non-geocachers as "muggles," and keeping caches secret from muggles is necessary to protect them. Geocachers quickly develop the ability to look for something in public without appearing to do anything interesting, and there are a lot of times in life when appearing entirely unremarkable is a valuable thing.

Also, sometimes cachers have to be quick on their feet. Very early in my caching life, I rolled up to a cache when a Jeep rolled up right behind me. I was quite active in a local caching forum at the time, and this Jeep had a vanity plate that I recognized as a user of the forum. Two people looking at a tree are fairly unremarkable, but five of us got a bit of attention. A couple kids at the playground near us started asking questions, and I don't remember who came up with it, but one of us declared us to be "tree scientists," and all of us immediately ran with it. The kids were satisfied, we found and logged the cache, and went on our way with a good laugh and a story.

One other, less obvious skill is the ability to set up, hide, and recover a cache. If your bug-out plans include a specific location like family property or something, caching durable supplies there can prove useful, and knowing how to protect your cache from the elements and the curious ensure that it will be there when you need it. Learning how to place it and mark the location means that you can find it when you come back to retrieve the contents. That's the entire heart and soul of geocaching, and it's a useful skill from time to time.

If all of this sounds interesting, has all of the information you need to get started. I started out using a Garmin GPS, and it has certain advantages, but with modern cell phones you already have everything you need to find your first geocache sitting in your pocket. You'll get outside and get sunshine and exercise at the very least, and you may acquire a few handy skills in the process.


Monday, May 18, 2020

New Normal, Does it Equal New Opportunies?

This “new normal”, while clearly a misnomer, certainly can provide some new opportunities for our safety.

Godspeed to you all.

Thursday, May 14, 2020


One of the most basic things about being a prepper is learning how to provide for yourself and your tribe when normal systems break down or are unavailable. Systems are funny things, and there are college-level courses on “proper” systems design and most of the concepts transfer between types of systems quite easily. I want to focus on one of the things that modern designers hate, fear, and avoid: redundancy. You've probably heard the aphorism “Two is one and one is none”; David is a big fan of repeating it. Having a back-up for anything you use is redundancy boiled down to its bare minimum.

Preppers have to work with what they have in a crisis situation, so redundancy is a good thing for us. If your knife breaks, you lose a job, or get stuck somewhere, you should have something handy that can provide the same functionality like a spare knife, money in the bank (or a side job), and people you can trust to feed your cat. These are all forms of redundancy that we can, and should, live with. I like redundancy, and I've made it a part of my life as having spares and back-ups has saved me a lot of hassle over the years. I try to keep at least two of everything... except for my wife, of course. 

However, I'm a bother to management when I ask for redundancy in critical machinery, as corporate HQ views having unused capacity is “wasteful” and we should all “do more with less”. That is what they were taught in Business Management 101, and they rarely learn to think otherwise.

The “just in time (JIT) supply” ideology was introduced to the US about 40 years ago and it has changed the way businesses operate on many levels. The easiest way to explain it is running as business like someone living paycheck to paycheck, and they're only one missed check away from trouble. This business style is notable for its disdain for redundancy and storage, and supply lines are the only thing that keeps it alive. Here are a few JIT points of interest and how they can be avoided by preppers.

They Say: “Warehouses are Bad, Wasteful, and Expensive” 
The days of massive warehouses full of goods are over for the most part. With the exceptions of seasonally produced goods (mainly agricultural), nobody stocks more than a few days' supply of anything. I've seen a new manager clear out a warehouse full of spare parts at a huge industrial facility (and got promoted for it) because she thought it was wasteful” to have spare motors, pumps, and valves on-site; within a year, half of the cleared-out materials had to be repurchased and put back on the shelves. Various government stockpiles have seen the same actions taken, especially emergency supplies. Selling (at a loss) something you've already paid for just to buy it again later at a higher price seems to be more wasteful to me, but then I don't have a degree in Business Management.

I Say: Be Your Own Warehouse
Your only counter to this is to have your own supplies on hand when they're needed. We have to be our own warehouses, and for preppers that means keeping extra food, water, clothing, and shelter on hand. Storage space can be a problem, so we need to learn to prioritize and keep what we need.

They Say: “Rapid Shipping is a Necessity” 
I enjoy using FedEx and UPS; they make my life simpler and provide a service. There are lots of other shipping companies out there that couldn't survive without the constant demand for immediate shipping of “operating supplies”, the things consumed on a daily basis. This is often the weakest link in the supply chain due to the many ways transportation can get messed up: bad weather, bad roads, bad drivers, and a bunch of other things can all delay shipments for days or weeks. Getting the wrong thing delivered is another common problem.

I Say: Have a Back-Up Plan
If you rely on regular shipments of anything, medications come to mind, have a back-up plan. We get some of our prescriptions filled online and shipped overnight/express, but the local pharmacy has a copy of the prescriptions and can fill them in an emergency. There have been a few times where an extra few days' worth were all we could get locally, but it helped get us through until the order arrived.

They Say: “24/7 Operations Are Now Normal” 
40 hour/5 day weeks are fading into the sunset and most businesses are moving towards having at least a skeleton crew working around the clock to take care of the inevitable emergency customers. Since nobody carries their own stock of supplies, running out of something creates an emergency that needs to be addressed. This, coupled with the digital connectivity afforded by cell phones and computers, has changed how most people work.

I Say: Train Your Tribe To Cover For Each Other
Since I'm one of those “on-call” employees that works whatever hours the customers need, I've set aside times where I'm not available. It took some training of the new hires, but I can now rely on them in the event that something prevents me from getting to work. This allows me peace of mind and gives me time to take care of personal things.

Cross-train your tribe to take the pressure off of each other by having redundant skills. Think about how you'll deal with situations such as having to work different hours or your normal contacts stop offering 24/7 service. I'm somewhat lucky to live in a small town with only one cafe (no stores) that is open 24 hours a day; it's forced me to plan ahead more since I don't have the option of running down to the all-night grocery store if I run out of milk.

They Say: “Central Planning & Projection is a High Priority” 
This is a philosophical and political issue. Is it more efficient and better to have local control over things, or central? The central planners get more power/control over their subordinates (it's a pathological thing for some folks), but local conditions are often ignored. This is not a new issue; America has struggled with it for as long as we've been a country and businesses have fought over it in the marketplace (check out the DC vs. AC, Edison vs. Westinghouse electricity competition of a hundred years ago). 

I Say: Prepare Locally
I'm not a supporter of central planning; it fails too often, and when it fails it impacts a large number of people. Look at most of the laws written in our state capitols and Washington, DC: the people writing them can't (or won't) plan for all of the possibilities over a large area, and we get poor laws as a result. If you want another example, Soviet-era Russia is a study in the failure of central planning.

Prepping is about as “local” as you can get. If you want to see how well central planning works for localities, just read some recent history of “emergency response” by our various government agencies. Organizations that large move very slowly, which is why FEMA tells us to have our own 72 hour kits. Make your own plans and set aside your own supplies.

Redundancy gives you options, and options give you a better chance of getting through a crisis. Look at your daily activities and see where a bit of redundancy can be implemented to help you be prepared; look for that weakest link, and find a way to replace it if it should snap.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Repurposing Bags

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

Erin's post about redoing her GHB reminded me that I have been putting off redoing mine, both for the Summer Gear Swap and to better protect the gear inside. What I'd really like to do is make the everything fit into a series of dry sacks similar to these from Amazon. Unfortunately, my GHB has several compartments and I would only able to use the smallest bags, and not too efficiently either, so what I am doing instead is repurposing* some packaging from work to accomplish almost the same thing.

I've used dry sacks before when rafting and they work very well in protecting their contents. They are also buoyant, which makes them easy to find if you end up in the water. The downside is they are not clear, so it can be difficult to know what is inside, and they take some time to open when you need access to their contents. Instead of those, I'm using some industrial strength zip lock bags to sort my gear. I saved one or two of this type of bag a long time ago when I worked in a different area, and now it seems the same supplier is sending goods to where I am now. So far I have bags about the same size as store-brand sandwich bags, but larger volume orders come in what are supposed to be gallon equivalents.

I am also changing from all-black tools and gear to things that can bee seen more easily in the dark and when digging gear out in a hurry. Not only will a very heavy gauge clear plastic bag help in this, the side benefit of being waterproof is a bonus. The downside is a shipping label that is pretty much permanently attached. I really don't want to try several of the chemicals which I know will soften most adhesives, because I'm afraid the bag will become brittle and crack sometime in the future.

When I get more of both sizes, I will show how they work in sorting my gear.

*I laugh when I read words like 'repurposing'. Why, back in the day we called it something else: dumpster diving. 

Recap And Takeaway
  • Reusing something to make your life better is a great thing and when it works right out of the gate, even better.
* * *

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, May 12, 2020

Greenhouse Basics

I love fresh herbs. I also live where it gets really cold, and our growing season is 4-5 months for most things. This means I either spend a bunch of money at the store half the year getting the herbs I want, or I have to cook with dry herbs. My desire to have fresh ingredients year round drove me to look for a solution.

Bringing the plants inside would be the easiest solution, but I don't have a whole lot of appropriate space in my house to grow anything, and my dogs and cat would destroy them. This means that the best solution is a greenhouse. I don't have space for a big walk-in area, but I also don't need that much growing area for a simple herb garden; a 2'x4' space with a couple racks inside would be plenty. I didn't find many commercial solutions for my needs, and nothing I wanted to pay for, so I did some research on designing and building my own and I'd like to share the basics I've found with you.

Greenhouses are designed to trap heat and light, two things that are in short supply during the winter in northern latitudes. If you have the capability to recess the floor of the greenhouse into the ground to a point below the frost line, this makes the heat portion of the equation far simpler. Unfortunately, the area where I'm looking to site my micro greenhouse is on concrete, so I'll have to design a bit differently.

Both light and heat in greenhouses are primarily supplied by the sun. This means you need a glass or plastic wall that faces the sun for the longest possible amount of time during the day. For me, that means a southern facing with about a 30 degree slope, and a white or other light colored material on the northern wall to direct heat and light back into the growing area.

In order to trap the most possible heat, you need to insulate your greenhouse. Insulation should be placed into the roof, sides, and back. This can be residential fiberglass batting, foam board, spray foam, or whatever other material you have available. If you're building on concrete, elevate your plants a few inches and insulate under them -- concrete is wonderful for retaining heat, but it takes a ton of energy to get warmed up. My plan is to use half of a wooden shipping pallet as a floor and then pack it with straw or some other fill material.

Either glass or clear hard plastic will work fine for the sun-facing wall. Glass is great for trapping heat, but it can be expensive and fragile; plastic is light, inexpensive, and durable, but it doesn't insulate well. I haven't decided which to use yet, and probably won't until I'm actually laying down cash, but that's one of the last things I need to put in place as summer is just starting and I won't need to worry about insulating my plants until sometime around October.

I'll keep you updated as design and building progress this summer. With a bit of luck and skill, I'll have fresh rosemary and cilantro to put on steaks in January.


Friday, May 8, 2020

The Bug-Out Chest Rig

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Earlier this year I mentioned that one of my resolutions was to reduce the weight of my Get Home Bag. While I am still in the process of doing that, one of the things which I have done (and is sort of a cheat, but as Lokidude says, "If you aren't cheating you aren't trying hard enough") is to move some of that gear off my back and onto my chest with a chest rig.

While this does not reduce the actual amount of carried weight, it does serve to reduce the amount that my aching back has to carry while simultaneously placing gear in a position where I can access it quickly. I consider this a double win.

The one that I have is the NYCTO Tactical Chest Rig (which I acquired for a price much, much less than the $129 it's being sold for), but any sort of chest carrier will do so long as it has plenty of pockets and can be worn in conjunction with a backpack. For example, a cheaper but less customizable option is the Ribz Frontpack, which has a few large pockets instead of several smaller ones and has no MOLLE webbing.

This is my Nycto with most of the pockets open (the main pocket is exploded below). From left to right:

Grenade Pocket 1: Medical

Magazine Pocket 1: Vision

Main Pocket:  See Below

Magazine Pocket 2: PPE

Grenade Pocket 2: Hand Protection

Main Pocket, again
Some of the contents were spread out so they could be seen. All of this easily fits into the pocket and does not prevent me from lying prone if necessary.

From Back to Front and Left to Right:

Most of this should be self-evident, but here's some explanations:
  • I'm allergic to a lot of stuff and I burn easily. 
  • My medication is with my first aid stuff because that only needs to be taken once daily. 
  • My first aid stuff is in my GHB, because it is bulky and if I need to do first aid I will likely need to take off my pack first. It probably wouldn't hurt to add some band-aids to my front pocket, though, and I'll do that as soon as I hit Publish. 
  • The critical trauma stuff is right there so I can get to it immediately before I or someone else dies. 
  • The Dawn is there so I don't confuse it with regular soap and use it for washing. 
  • The shooting gloves are in the chest pocket because there's no room for them in the grenade pocket. 
  • I don't have a hat with this gear because I always have either a baseball cap or a boonie hat with me when I leave the house. 
  • I have room to conceal a full-size pistol within the main pocket. 

The Nycto C-Rig and all its components weigh 5 pounds. On the one hand, that's not a lot of weight removed from the GHB bag itself; on the other hand, that's 5 fewer pounds I have to haul on my back and they're all items I will want to access quickly without stopping to rummage around in my backpack. 

I encourage all of you to add a chest rig to your GHB or BOB. You won't regret it. 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

BOV Shopping

As many of us know, everything has a useful lifespan and everything will eventually need to be replaced. My faithful pickup truck finally hit the point of being more of a problem than an asset, so I needed to find some new (to me) transportation. Since this is my daily driver, it also serves as my Get Home Vehicle and/or my Bug Out Vehicle (BOV). I need it to be reliable, affordable, and able to carry the gear I want. I'll be trimming the gear down some since I won't have the box of the pickup any more, but that's a topic for another article.

I'm one of those odd people who minimizes debt, so a new car with a monthly payment is not what I was looking for. I tend to save money and pay cash for my vehicles; it takes some discipline and time, but the security of actually owning my vehicles and the lower insurance payments is well worth the hassle. Having a money sitting in the bank isn't what it used to be because savings accounts don't pay much interest any more, and some banks actually have negative interest on savings, meaning that they charge you to leave your money with them. The temptation to spend that set-aside money is very real -- I could buy a lot of ammunition for what a good used car costs -- but part of being an adult is learning to plan ahead and stick to the plan.

I hate shopping. Being a typical male, I go to a store with my goal (target) in mind, get it, then get out. Car shopping is even worse when you add in the sales-people and some of their tactics; they only get paid when they make a sale, so most of them will do and say anything to get you to sign the papers on a car. (There are good reasons for all of the used-car salesman jokes out there, and the industry does not have a good track record.) I did a lot of research on used cars over a three-week period because I've been out of the market for several years. My truck has been my daily driver for 10 years and it was 10 years old when I bought it, so technology has changed a lot about the vehicles on the market. Here's a quick list of what I was looking for, some of the things I found, and what I ended up with:

Car, Truck, or SUV?
I don't haul much cargo any more and have access to a pickup any time I need one, so I wasn't looking for another pickup. Cars are too small for my uses and I don't have kids at home, so I don't need a mini-van. I wanted a small or medium SUV, preferably with 4WD to deal with the snow we have to deal with most years.

I ended up with a All Wheel Drive (AWD), which is a permanent 4WD, SUV with a 2-speed transfer case (low for off-road, high for on-road). The off-road capabilities were a nice bonus, and were much better than my 2WD pickup could ever hope to do.

I'm getting out of a 20-year-old truck, so I know that anything that old will be a money-pit, and anything less than 5 years old is going to be out of my price range unless it has major problems or is already worn out. My target range was 8-10 years old with reasonable miles on it; I ended up with a 12-year-old vehicle that had been well maintained and had fairly low miles on it. Sometimes you have to look outside your preferences to find something that will work.

This one is very personal. Some of us have better jobs than others, and I'd wager that some of us don't have a job at all. I have a decent job and am able to set aside some money after the bills are paid, so I had about $10k for a vehicle. Your situation will be different; some will be able to afford more and some will not be able to scrape up that much, so do the best you can with what you have. I ended up spending most of my savings on the SUV, with a buffer for the inevitable repairs that any used car will need.

This is actually one of the least important aspects to me. Some folks are brand-snobs and won't drive anything other than their preferred brand, but I'm not going to start a Ford/Chevy, US/Foreign, or Union/Non-union discussion. That is a personal preference akin to 9mm vs 45ACP and I don't want to start a fight amongst the readers.

My final choice was a foreign-made SUV with a good reputation and a history of dependability. I've driven mostly Ford products for most of my life and have gotten used to working on them, but I can still learn new things and I'm not fixated on any one brand.

Trying to find a standard (stick) transmission is almost impossible any more, as everything has an automatic transmission these days. I prefer the simplicity of a clutch and stick-shift, they last a lot longer and are more efficient at transferring power to the wheels, but the mandated gas mileage rules have made them obsolete.

During my research, I found that most to the Constantly Variable Transmissions (CVT) on the market today are crap. They're nice because they don't have actual gears that shift, creating a smooth ride and better gas mileage, but they wear out at about the time most new car buyers are trading them in. 100k miles seems to be where problems start, with a few brands failing well before that. Since most of the CVTs out there are sealed units, they get replaced rather than repaired, at a cost of roughly $4000. That chopped a huge chunk of the used cars off of my lists. The SUV I bought has a conventional 6-speed automatic, which gives me a good mix of low- and high-speed settings.

Engines are another thing to seriously research. Using Ford as an example, because I know that brand but could find the same type of thing for many other brands, some of the engines out there have known issues like:
  • Turbochargers that fail often and early
  • Spark plugs that are a dealer-only replacement
  • Excessive oil leaking or consumption
  • Control module problems
  • Very short life-spans
I ended up getting a small V-8 that has a good record of reliability. It has more power than I really need, but it is nice to have a vehicle that can run at highway speeds without straining. The gas mileage is better than my old pickup, but not by much.

I'm getting old, so I enjoy some of the newer features and creature comforts available in newer cars. The SUV I ended up buying has more accessories than I need, but none of them are crucial, nor will they stop the vehicle from running if they fail. Being comfortable isn't a sin, and having toys that make driving safer is a good thing. Don't base your purchase decision on the lack of comfort unless you have a good reason, but don't turn your nose up at a car with extra bells and whistles either.

No, I don't really need a heated windshield and side mirrors, but it's going to be pleasant not scraping ice for a few months of every year. The built-in cell phone connectivity will replace the hands-free headset I've used for years (I have a commercial driver's license and drive large trucks, and the DOT gets nasty if they catch you holding a cell phone while driving). The on-board computer tracks a lot of different information for me, and having that information displayed as I drive removes some doubt and worry. Tire pressure monitoring, built-in GPS, and a few other gizmos are new to me, but I think they'll make it easier to drive. I am going to have to look into having a remote start module installed, I was surprised that the SUV didn't have one from the factory.

If you're looking at used cars, do your research. Kelly Blue Book ( has been an industry standard for car pricing for decades and can give you a range of prices for similar vehicles in your area. Edmunds ( is another price comparison site with reviews and known issues listed for each model. If you are looking for known problems, I have found good information at Car Complaints ( where they list owners' and government reports of issues. Many larger dealers offer the Carfax or other reporting sites' data on used cars -- things like title transfers, accidents, recalls, and dealer maintenance -- or you can pay to get your own report from most of these sites.

Now it's time for me to take the new toy to the dealership and get a good base-line check done. I want to know if there are any problems that I didn't catch while doing my research and test drive.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Prudent Prepping: When You Need Something To Suck

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

I was working on something else and ran into a problem (to be discussed later), which naturally led me to think about things sucking.

I've had this in my work gear for a while, but I never thought to write about it. However, since things are sucking right now, here's something to suck on!

GOsili Extra Long Reusable Silicone Straw + Case
I was shopping at a Whole Foods and saw this on the candy and trashy magazine rack near the checkstand, and so I bought it to keep in in my jacket pocket for the times I go to cities that prohibit plastic straws. It doesn't get soggy or de-laminate if it's left in the drink too long like the replacement waxed paper versions do, and I don't want to start packing another large container to hold the metal straws that are getting popular with the trendy folk.

The Gosili website has some good pictures (that do not transfer well) and many other silicone products. Here is product info for the straw:

Extra Long Reusable Silicone Straw with Case - (Extra Long Size - Perfect for 24oz+)

Very Small Box  

Time to make a change! Perfect for on the go. This reusable eco-friendly silicone straw comes with a travel case and is the perfect solution when on the go. Never be without your straw again! The portable travel case fits right in your pocket, backpack, purse or bag. Smaller than a pack of gum, cheaper than a tin of mints, lasts longer than both and better for the environment! Easy to use and clean, both the straw and carry case are dishwasher safe. Great for 24oz cups and larger and works with most all straw tops."

• 100% European-grade silicone
​• BPA, BPS, phthalate, PVC, and lead free
• Comes with aluminum travel / case
• Includes one straw
• Dishwasher safe
• Straws are 10" in length with an opening of .5cm



I have to admit that a jumbo Slurpee has been in my cup holder more than once, and when this straw hits my elbow it bounces right back without tipping the cup over. If you use this with a Slurpee domed lid that has a giant hole in it, you are golden, but a flat, standard soft drink lid with the smaller opening will give you a little problem since the GOsili isn't stiff enough to punch through the "X" opening. I end up pre-punching the opening with my finger and then install the straw.

The standard diameter straw will allow you to drink everything except Boba drinks. For that you will need to get the larger diameter straw.

Since it is silicone, it will theoretically work with hot drinks, but I don't see myself using it for that.

Recap And Takeaway
  • I purchased my straw from a local retailer, but the almost clear version can be ordered from Amazon for $15.00. Don't do that; go to your local Whole Foods and buy one like mine for much, much less.
* * *

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, May 5, 2020

Basic Plumbing: Toilet Repair

I am not a plumber. I've never claimed to be a plumber, I don't want to be a plumber,  I've never played one on TV, and I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

None of that is any slight against plumbers. Quite the contrary, I have great respect for my comrades who are experts in the dark arts of liquid supply and removal, for they have a skill set that is very valuable. They also happen to know this fact, and therefore calling a skilled tradesman for basic repairs can be very expensive for fixes you can often do on your own. Today, that repair is fixing a toilet that won't stop running.

A constantly flowing toilet is fairly simply fixed by replacing the flapper and fill assembly in the tank. The repair kit is inexpensive, and the repair takes all of about 15 minutes. When you're done, you'll save water and money, and have a toilet that flushes much better. The kit includes complete instructions, but there are a couple high points worth hitting.

First you'll need to shut off the water to your toilet. There should be a hose behind and below the toilet, with a valve near the wall or floor. Closing this valve turns off the water to your toilet. If you don't have a valve on this hose, stop now, as this has become a much more advanced job! Once the water has been turned off, remove the lid from the tank and flush the toilet until all of the water is out of the tank.

The shutoff valve for my toilet. A quarter turn to the right shuts the water off.

Replace the guts according the the instructions, making sure to clean any loose debris in the tank. The rubber seals tend to degrade over time, and can make a mess or gum up the works. If you use a bleach block in your toilet, be sure to wear rubber gloves to prevent chemical burns.

After you're done replacing everything, turn the water back on and let the tank fill. I recommend giving the commode a couple good flushes, just to make sure everything is working properly, then replace the tank lid, and bask in the glory of a job well done.

The aforementioned guts. All of this except the white flush arm and the black tube assembly on the left get replaced.

Monday, May 4, 2020

DIY Potato Yeast Pt 1

I followed the posted recipe but it takes a couple of days. So hopefully next weeks video will be early....?

Godspeed to you all.

Friday, May 1, 2020

COVID-19: Lessons (Hopefully) Learned

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Now that people are returning to work in some states, I think it's safe to say that the COVID-19 crisis has passed. We may never return to how the world was before, and I think that is potentially a good thing; while I regret the loss of life, and my sympathies go out to those people who lost loved ones during this pandemic, I think we as a nation, and perhaps as a planet, got off easy. This could have been so very much worse, with deaths in the hundreds of thousands (as in the case of the 9181 flu epidemic) or even higher.

In that light, I look at this as both a wake-up call and a practice run. We were up to this point rather complacent about a great many things, and the events of the past few months have opened our country's eyes not only to dangers we hadn't considered but also to flaws and weaknesses in our culture and infrastructure. There are a great many lessons to be learned from all this, and I hope that our country learns the right ones, because the danger of learning the wrong ones, or learning nothing at all, is great and terrible.

Normalization of Prepping
Prior to 2020, prepping was viewed by the general public as the actions of a paranoid few. However, after such events as The Great Run on Toilet Paper, bare shelves in supermarket departments, long lines into stores like Costco and Sam's Club, and even now threatened food shortages, prepping now seems like a sensible course of action in the face of unexpected developments. Hopefully more people will see the wisdom of laying in supplies against an emergency and this will mitigate future runs on supplies. There will always be grasshoppers among the ants, but hopefully they will no longer be in the majority.

Normalization of Gun Ownership
We are well upon our way in this regard; March 2020 had more gun sales and more background checks than any other month in history. The American people, almost as a single entity, realized that if this virus was as bad as they feared then the police might not show up to protect them, and many of them decided it was in their best interests to buy a firearm for home protection. While things never did get that bad, there were many instances of police departments being gutted due to illness and/or issuing statements that they would not be responding to property crimes. Understanding that you are your own first responder and that the authorities might not arrive in time (or at all) is a healthy attitude to have, and so I applaud this development. Now it is incumbent upon the rest of us to retain these newcomers by making them feel welcome in the firearms community and helping them to get the training they need in order to be safe, effective, responsible gun owners.

Normalization of Home Schooling
Prior to this, home-school programs were looked upon by many as a form of child abuse. Now that all forms of education are being done from the home, those assumptions are being overturned. Not only does home-schooling reduce the chance of infection, it is also immune to schedule disruptions like this. Perhaps in a few years remote learning will become the norm, which would free up much-needed school funds to go towards teachers instead of classrooms.

More Working From Home
While there will always be jobs which require a physical presence, most office-level jobs can be done remotely. Not only will this be healthier for families, but it also will reduce the need for commuting to work and back, which will reduce pollution, traffic, wear on roads and vehicles, and the need for expensive office space, all of which will result in funds being used elsewhere (such as on better medical facilities instead of road work, or on employee salary instead of office expenses). This would also reduce the chance of infection from future diseases, both in the office and in mass transit during rush hour.

An Exodus from Big Cities
I confess, I am biased against cities. I do not like crowds, and ever since 9/11 I have seen cities as nothing but deathtraps where people are packed in so tightly that a single disaster will imperil hundreds of thousands of people who will be unable to escape in time. Given that COVID-19's toll was felt more heavily in large cities than smaller communities, it is possible that more people will move to less-dense parts of the country, especially if combined with an increase of working from home. I say this is a good thing, as people in cities tend to be dependent upon city services, whereas those who live closer to the country are more self-sufficient.

Better Supply Chains, a Return to US Manufacturing, and Ending Kanban
That's a mouthful, but it's all interconnected. Kanban is the Japanese term for the system whereby inventory is kept to the minimum necessary to supply a store for the day, and as product goes out it is replaced with new shipments coming in. This is a fine systems to reduce waste and spoilage... so long as everything works smoothly. However, if one part of the supply chain breaks, the entire system breaks as stores lack the inventory to hold out between shipments. A country which doesn't rely on international imports to feed, clothe and heal its people is better prepared to weather international disruptions, and shorter supply chains with redundancies for shortages and a more robust inventory will safeguard against local disruption.

A Better Disease Response
I am not talking about response from local, state and federal agencies (although those do need improvement), but rather response from people. We've all had a glimpse into the life of what it means to be a hazmat worker, and we've realized  how much it takes in terms of time, effort, materials, and mental energy. "Just one slip-up and I could infect myself and family" is a terrible thought that preys upon the mind and leads to mental and emotional exhaustion. While there is no way to ease that burden, now that we have done this once it is my hope that we will learn from our experience. We will keep better supplies on hand, we will learn how to properly put on PPE and take it off without contaminating ourselves, and we will be more mindful of infection.

We were lucky this time. The next time might be worse. Even if the nation doesn't learn these lessons, I hope you all do so that the next time it happens, you are not caught unprepared.

The Fine Print

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

Creative Commons License

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