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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Dental Emergencies

Having lived with and without dental insurance, I've dealt with dental issues over the years in different ways. I prefer to use a dentist, but have had a few times where one was not available or affordable, such as losing a filling on the Friday of a three-day weekend; being on a road trip a day's drive from home and chipping a tooth; and being in-between jobs when a cavity works its way to a nerve. 

Toothaches suck the joy out of life and can be distracting enough to destroy situational awareness. As with any medical issue, if you have access to a professional you should use them rather than try to treat yourself. A good dentist can find and fix problems before they get too bad to repair, and most have some form of payment plan option available for those without insurance. For the times when you don't have a dentist available (TSHTF, foreign travel, remote camping, natural disaster, etc.) you may want to have a few supplies and some knowledge on hand.

Toothaches can be caused by a lot of different issues, from bad sinus infections (puts pressure on the nerves from your teeth) to damage to a tooth's nerve. Anyone who has raised children knows the usefulness of Ora-gel as a topical anesthetic to deaden a toothache, and in a pinch a cotton swab dipped in clove oil placed near the ache will kill the pain for quite a while. General analgesics like Tylenol and Advil will also help take the edge off of a toothache and are a normal part of most first-aid kits.

Since the media started hyping the “opioid epidemic”, dentists are wary of (or just won't) prescribe useful pain-killers. T3's (Tylenol with codeine) used to be normal, with 5/325mg Hydrocodone/Tylenol being used for the serious pain, but you'll have a hard time getting them today. I can't advocate breaking the law, but there are options for finding pain-killers that don't involve a doctor;  before the “War on Drugs”, dentists used cocaine to deaden toothaches, and in some areas of the world cocaine is probably easier to find than a pharmacy. Just be careful who you trust with supplying anything you're going to ingest.

Cavities are formed when the outer layer of the tooth (enamel) has been breached and decay has started on the dentin. Once the decay reaches the pulp and nerve, the pain will intensify. If the nerve is damaged or destroyed and blood flow is lost to the tooth, that tooth is dead and your options are to have it removed (extracted) or have a root-canal or implant installed. 

Cavities are repaired by cleaning out the damaged material (debridement) and then filling the hole with a material that is at least as hard as tooth enamel. The debridement is difficult to do on yourself, so you'll need an assistant the you trust as well as the tools to clean and smooth the hole in your tooth. Once the hole is clean and dry, mixing the filling material according to the instruction and packing it in the hole is pretty straightforward. 

A lost or chipped filling is as bad as a cavity, and there are plenty of repair kits on the market. They come in both temporary and permanent versions, so if you can get to a dentist in a reasonable amount of time you may want to stock the temporary type.

Extraction of a tooth is going to cost a couple hundred dollars at most, but the root-canal/insert option can cost thousands. Root-canal procedures come with no guarantee; they may last a year, or they may last 40 years. Mine failed after 35+ years, so I got my money's worth out of it. 

Prevention is cheaper, but not always an option (I'm not going to start the fluoridation of drinking water debate), so brush and floss every day even if it means using a chewed-on stick as a toothbrush. Baking soda makes a good replacement toothpaste since it is mildly abrasive and will neutralize the acids that damage teeth, and table salt will work if you run out of baking soda.

Chips and Cracks
Chipping a tooth is common. The enamel layer is hard and somewhat brittle, so any sharp impact can chip an edge or corner: biting down on an unexpectedly hard, small object; getting hit in the mouth; or falling on a hard surface are all common methods of chipping or cracking a tooth, sometimes leading to a tooth breaking off above or below the gumline. In order to protect the inner layers of the tooth, the chipped area needs to be sealed to keep food and bacteria out.

Sealing a chipped or broken tooth is simple if you have the right materials, usually some form of 2-part epoxy with a filler to match the color of a tooth. Emergency dental first-aid kits are fairly cheap (less than $30) and will usually provide enough material for several teeth. If you don't have a kit, use a piece of wax or sugar-free gum to cover the damage to protect it from hot/cold food and air exposure until you can get to a dentist.

Whether through trauma or extraction, the loss of an adult tooth is permanent. Depending on the amount of damage done during the loss, it will take a few weeks or months for your gums to heal over the missing tooth, and even longer for the bone of your jaw to fill in the hole where the root(s) used to sit. Until the gums seal the hole, keep it as clean as possible by rinsing with warm salt water and gently brushing. Avoid trying to chew food with that part of your mouth to reduce the chance of getting food trapped below the gumline.

Replacement teeth have been around for centuries, and the technology is getting better every year. One or two missing teeth can be replaced with a partial denture (AKA a partial plate), something I will so have to go through. As I understand the process, once everything has healed up enough the dentist will use a quick-setting gel to make a copy of my existing teeth and gums, which will be used to craft a plate that will fill in the gaps and conform to the folds and bends of the jawbone and gums.

I have insurance, so I don't have to get a second mortgage to afford my dental care, but I found an option for those who need to improve their bite but can't afford a traditional dentist. The Do It Yourself Dental Impression Kit is an online way of ordering a kit that will allow you to make a mold of your mouth at home and then send it to a lab where they will create the dentures or mouth-pieces you need for a fraction of the price of a visit to the dentist/orthodontist. I crunched the numbers and they were only about $200 more than I'd have to pay as my deductible/co-pay, so I'm keeping them in mind for future needs. If I ever lose my dental insurance, it'll be nice to have an option to get new plates made without having to wipe out my savings account.

While searching for links for this post, I ran across several articles dealing with DIY dental care. There are a lot of areas of the world that lack the level of dental care that we enjoy in the USA, and people are starting to use the resources of the internet (YouTube videos) and overnight delivery to take matters into their own hands. I see this as a good thing, because I believe that people should be more self-reliant and learning how to take care of yourself is always better than relying on others for your comfort. Minimizing or eliminating pain and improving your ability to eat are quality-of-life issues that can have a major impact on other areas of your life.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Prudent Prepping: First Aid Every Day Carry

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

I'm always tweaking what I carry, and from what I read,
that makes me a normal prepper.

What's New
Not too much, right now. I have a small first aid kit in my bag with band aids, bigger pads, triple antibiotic and gauze. I bought the much more complete Voodoo Tactical Trauma kit way back in May 2016, which is in my GHB since it takes up more room than I'd like in my work bag. I'd consider wearing it on my belt, if it had proper belt loops instead of Molle straps... but this would put me into the Batman Utility Belt zone, and I don't want that at work since I'm already carrying close to two pounds of work gear in a pouch. The other thing I'm trying to avoid is the Gunslinger look, with items on my belt and a separate belt to support my work gear, which might be how things end up.

The other option is not to carry a full-on kit at all, but pare it down to the really basic and important stuff and leaving the band aids in my tool bag. This means taking things in different directions.

Really Different
Sean Sorrentino, friend of this blog and host of the late GunBlog VarietyCast, has been carrying supplies in an ankle 'holster' for a while now. What he has is the SFD Responder from Safer Faster Defense.

The company lists items on the Responder page that will fit comfortably in the pouch, but that list is not carved in stone. Sean has modified the contents on his, and if I get one of these I will ask for lots of advice.

What has started me on the search for a different way to carry first aid supplies is the addition of a tourniquet to my gear. I am still looking at the various types and while I own two different styles, I am still confused on the finer points of why one is superior to the three available choices. I am also waiting for the local Red Cross chapter to have their training classes on the proper use of tourniquets before I start carrying one. Classes are in June, so if I decide on "Ankle Carry", that will allow me enough time to order and receive a SFD Responder with the listed shipping time of 4-6 weeks factored in.

Basic Different
Another option is to go minimalist and carry a tourniquet and not much else! Another friend Jonathan Sullivan still blogs at his new site, Home Hardening. One of his posts, A Blowout Kit for Your Belt, discusses a potentially smaller setup, along with a medium and a larger kit which gets into my 'too big for work' carry zone just like the Voodoo Tactical.

Of his options shown, I liked (and bought) the slightly larger phone case, Maxpedition PLP iPhone 6s Plus Pouch.

I've fooled around with the case and carried it for a while, but I stopped taking it with me since I tend to overload things. I wrote about what I put into it in this post and when a tourniquet is added later this year, I will have to modify the contents again to make room. As I said, I am fiddling with my gear every week.

The Takeaway
  • It's wonderful to have options, but on a BCP budget I need to pick one and then stick with it. 
  • Of the two options, the phone case I have is less expensive than the ankle pouch, but ankle carry keeps stuff off my belt and prevents the Utility Belt look. 

The Recap
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but new info needs to be thought over and a decision, one way or another, has to be made soon.

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, April 17, 2018

The Simplest Shepard's Pie Recipe Ever!

In news related to Rhi and Evie's ride, we aren't able to go for medical reasons, so we're obviously disappointed that life decided to become complicated. We were looking forward to a month of hanging out, practicing prepper skills like deadfall traps and cast iron dutch oven cookery... but that doesn't mean I'm not going to have some fun with the preps I had gathered.

One of the things I planned to try while on the trip was a "bastard shepherd's pie". I say bastard because the meat was either going to be smashed spam or tuna instead of ground beef. (Oh quite cringing, it wouldn't have been that bad.)

This recipe is something that I came up with on the fly to see if those packs of mashed potatoes with the little extra seasonings that I mentioned last time would work for said food dish.

  • 1 1/2 lbs of ground meat. I recommend not very lean ground beef; you'll read why later.
  • 1 small onion, chopped (any onions will do, if you want to extra color try red onions)
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 2 carrots (size matters not)
  • 1 jalepeno, seeded and chopped, about the same size as the onions and celery
  • Additional seasonings can be added but they aren't needed. I used some rosemary, sage and chives from my little container garden.
  • About 1/2 cup of instant mashed potatoes. I used the Applewood smoked bacon mashed potato pack for this, and the bacon flavor really blended well with the rest of the flavors. 
    • If you decide to make the mashed potatoes from scratch, you'll need about a cup and a half of boiled finely diced potatoes. Contrary to popular beliefs, mashed potatoes don't need milk or butter, just salt and black pepper. 
  • Salt & black pepper
  • A thickening agent. Many people use regular white flour, but one of the things that Rhi and I were going to be playing around with were alternative flours like buckwheat, tapioca and white rice flours. I used white rice flour in this instance; coconut and almond flours would not work for this recipe as they have a stronger flavor than rice or tapioca.
  1. While your beef is cooking down, chop up your veggies and set them aside.
  2. Your beef is ready to throw into a mixing bowl or the cooking dish once it's cooked almost all the way through. DON'T THROW THAT FAT AWAY! Leave it in the pan. That's what you're cooking your veggies in.
  3. Put your onions and celery in first. Keep an eye on your veggies because you're going to be adding the jalepeno to the mix once the onions have started to turn translucent. You'll toss your carrots in once the celery is tender and mix everything together in the frying pan really well.
  4. Once you have everything in the pan mixed, sprinkle some of your thickening agent into the pan and mix well again, reducing heat but keep stirring. You'll probably use at most a tablespoon depending on what you've chosen.
  5. Preheat your oven to 350.
  6. Turn the water on for your instant mashed potatoes (or if you went with potatoes from scratch, you can have them on a medium boil on the side while cooking everything else).
  7. Mix your meat and veggies well. Put them into your baking dish and make sure your layers is flat as possible. 
  8. Once you've gotten your potatoes mixed up/mashed up, spoon them on your mixture in the baking dish and carefully spread them with the back of the large spoon. Once you have an even layer, pop into the oven for 30 minutes or until the potatoes have a bit of a crust to them.
When ready, let sit for about 5-10 minutes if possible to let everything settle down a little bit. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bon appetite! 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Hot Sauce as an EDC Item

I fully expect some of you to laugh, but I am going to make the argument for the every-day carry of hot sauce.

Why Carry Hot Sauce?
This may not be as much of an issue for you as it is for me, but I end up using hot sauce a lot when I travel, and it really comes down to two main reasons (morale and diplomacy), but there are others worth noting.

Eating bland food can be a chore, and in an SHTF situation you can expect to eat whatever is on hand. Having eaten nothing but rice and beans when that was all that was packed on a Boy Scout campout (they forgot the main dish), I can testify that having hot sauce on hand can save the culinary day.

In other words, "being able to share". In my scout camp example, someone else had sauce on hand and instantly became the most popular person in the troop for that campout. I have, more than once, made a new friend by being willing to share the sriracha that I brought when the only food-like product was something bland and tasteless. (I say "food-like" because I'm not sure what it actually was.)

Imagine always having seasoning that you can guarantee has no corn/ gluten/ soy/ etc. in it, and not being forced to eat whatever is at hand with no other recourse for flavor.

You always have whatever hot sauce you enjoy using. Prefer your sauce hot enough to cut through plate steel? Really like that chili lime and garlic hot sauce that everyone else thinks is just plain weird? Want yours extra mild (or not spicy at all)? Any way you spin it, you'll always have flavoring on hand that you like and can stand.

As a second added bonus, in a real disaster you can introduce your friends to whatever seasoning you like, and if you are the only one with seasonings, they will probably pick yours.

How to EDC Hot Sauce
I am a fan of the keychain bottle method. This version is small enough to be TSA friendly, allowing those of us who travel far to often to achieve victory over bland airport food, as well as airplane food on the rare occasion that we get fed midair.

I keep three of these attached to my backpack via carabiner. When necessary, I unclip one and apply sauce as needed. I have never had one leak while I was traveling, but I did have a toddler decide that hot sauce was the best thing ever and decided to chew off the lid. (The child was fine, and his parents were more amused than anything, so no harm was done.)

Some people prefer the classic mini bottle. This one is less TSA friendly, but I do know at least two people who carry them around and whip out their custom home-grown, home-made ghost pepper sauce whenever they are in hunting range of a taco truck. (Remember what I said about cutting through plate steel? I am not sure that it is an exaggeration when it comes to these guys). I don’t like glass bottles, but if your seasoning of choice tends to melt the plastic it gets stored in, this may be the best option for you.

Good luck, and don’t forget to practice.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Your Pets After Your Death

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Today was the memorial service for a family friend, Tex. He died at age 96 and was married for 70 years, so he had a great run... but he left behind his little dog, Daisy.

Tex's daughter took Daisy in, but her other dog didn't take too kindly to that. Mom offered to adopt Daisy, which came as no surprise to me since we've had a void in our home ever since the dog who attacked me six months ago was put down.

So meet Daisy, the newest member of our family.

This is the day we adopted her. She took to us immediately. 

If you're a prepper with a pet, then I'm certain you've made preps for that pet. (In fact, pet prepping is how I got my mom into it: "Sure, we may be okay if we need to evacuate, but what about the dogs? Maybe you should make a bug-out bag for them, with leashes and food and some toys and their vaccination records?") But have you made preparations for your pet's well-being after your death?

Some people make sure their pets are cared for after their deaths by including provisions in their wills for them; others open a trust fund/savings account to ensure that whomever "inherits" their pets will not be on the hook financially. Most people just ask a relative, a close friend, or a next-door neighbor to look after the pet. This is fine as far as it goes, but remember that without your wishes being in writing and recognized by the court, there is no way to enforce your wishes after your death.

Be a responsible pet owner, and do what is needed to ensure that your beloved furry (or feathered, or scaly) family members aren't sent to the pound or euthanized after your death.

As for Daisy, she's settling in nicely. She's adorable, and she knows she is, so she'll probably be ruling the house by the end of the month. Not only is she a joy to have around the house, but it makes me feel good to know that I'm taking care of a friend's beloved pet by making her my beloved pet.

Daisy with her new nametag and scarf. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Fun Projects to Get Them Into Prepping

Getting your loved ones into prepping isn't difficult; you just have to make it fun. Start with a project that combines prepping with an area of their interest, such as guns or a love of James Bond. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Age: Not Something I Was Fully Prepared For

I've been a prepper for a long time. We used to be called “survivalists”, but that term developed some severely negative image once the news/entertainment media began to lump it in with conspiracy theorists, anarchists, and sovereign citizen activists. “Prepper” is more main-stream and acceptable, and is less likely to conjure up the image of someone who chooses to live outside the bounds of society. I do what I can to be prepared for disasters large and small, and I've gathered my skills and stores over the years. What I wasn't prepared for was the years.

I'm getting old. While David may have a few years seniority over me, I'm rapidly approaching retirement age and there are some things that I didn't fully prepare for. I'm not going to complain about getting old; too many of my friends didn't get the opportunity to grow old for me to whine about it. I bring this up for my younger readers, to tell them that there are some things they  may want to think about and start preparing for.

I'm in better shape physically than most people my age. I got a good roll of the dice for genetics, so I can look forward to a fairly decent old age: Cancer doesn't run in my family, and even for those who smoked it has usually been something else that killed them; heart disease is a crap-shoot on both sides of my family, but I've taken better care of myself than previous generations; diabetes is about the same with both parents developing it late in life, but being aware of that I've taken steps to reduce my risk.

I have realized that I'm starting to age, though.
  • I went to renew my driver's license and failed the eye test for the first time. 40+ years of driving, and now I have to wear my reading glasses to be safe. Time to invest in a few extra pair of glasses.
  • On the topic of eyesight, I've found that I get more use out of optical sights on my firearms now. Iron sights just aren't as useful as they were 20 years ago. I like my laser sights and red-dot scopes, so batteries got bumped up a notch on the list of priorities.
  • I had a root canal fail after 35 years. The dentist dug out the old root and also took out an adjacent tooth that was bad (3.5 hours in the chair, a week on pain killers, two weeks on antibiotics) and once that heals up I'll get fitted for a partial denture. Yeah, the denture cream commercials aren't funny any more, and now I'm going to have to look into denture care/repair.
  • I don't heal as quickly as I used to. What were once minor injuries or illnesses can now side-line me for days or weeks. This requires more attention to preventing injuries and illness as well as larger supplies of whatever I need to treat them. A minor cut that used to heal in three or four days, taking maybe a dozen bandages to keep it clean, now takes a week or more and a lot more bandages.
  • Arthritis is trying to get a grip on some of my joints. Since my wife suffers from fibromyalgia and a few other chronic ailments, I know what I have to stockpile to ease the pain and stiffness. Herbal anti-inflamatories are on the research list.

It's hard to live without money, at least under the present conditions. I'm not a wealthy man; I've worked blue-collar jobs most of my life and have never felt the need to amass great sums of money. Some of that is based on my religion, and some of it comes from living a simple life. I'm not a competitive person, so I don't get involved in the “keeping up with the neighbor” games. Frank got a new car? Good for him, I'm sure he'll enjoy it.

That being said, I have tried to plan for my retirement.
  • I have minimized my debt to the point that I will be debt-free as soon as my mortgage is paid off in about three years.
  • I have modest retirement accounts and small pensions through two former employers. IRAs and 401(k) plans are based on the stock market, so the money is not really ensured, but it's a calculated risk. I'm willing to gamble (which is what the stock market is) a percentage of my pay for the chance to have a source of income when I decide to stop working. Start as early in your working life as you can, because it builds up over time.
  • Social Security may still be in operation by the time I retire. I've paid into that Ponzi scheme since 1977, and I pray that I can at least break even and get back what I put in. I'm not going to rely on it as a primary source of income, though.
  • If at all possible, have more than one source of income. I've been the primary income provider since I got married. I chose to let my wife be a stay-at-home mother to raise our family, and that decision had side-effects. Sometimes you have to do work that you don't want to, just to put food on the table.
  • Being unemployed has not been an option for most of my life, so I'm not sure how I'm going to react to retirement. I've seen people thrive after they stop working, but I've also seen people die within a few years of retirement.

While I'm losing relatives to age, I'm also gaining grandchildren and extended family (tribe). My mother's family has dwindled to my generation and our children, and my father's is getting close to that. 
  • Not many aunts and uncles left, which is a chunk of my life that I'm not looking forward to losing. Funerals are never any fun, and I've been to a lot of them lately, but they're offset by the birthday parties,weddings, and other celebrations of life that come from having family. 
  • Funerals don't normally require presents, but the other gatherings do. Time to take stock of gift-able items. Not many in my family/tribe will pass up gift-wrapped ammunition.
  • I have some responsibility to pass on what I know to future generations. That is one reason I write these articles, but I also have close family that I need to teach very basic things to. I have grandchildren and others that don't understand how much they'll never learn in school, and from what I've seen of recent graduates of public schools, reading and writing (legibly) aren't being taught any more, so I have several boxes of paper and pencils.
  • I have family and tribe scattered across the country. Keeping in touch with them is easy now, thanks to the Internet and cell phones, but if TSHTF, this will likely change. I have a few friends looking into amateur radio for me, I'll try to get an article together this summer with what we find in our local area.

Having a prepper mindset means looking to the future and trying to be ready for whatever the universe throws at you. Just keep in mind that after you've survived the disaster, you still have many more years ahead of you.

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