Friday, September 17, 2021

Circular Storms

Erin lives in hurricane territory and I live in tornado country. Both are destructive weather events, but they differ in several aspects while sharing a few others.

Hurricanes
Hurricanes generally emerge from the Atlantic Ocean (they're called typhoons if they are in the Pacific Ocean) and are huge storms that move fairly slowly carrying lots of rain and high winds. When a hurricane makes landfall it wreaks havoc over a wide area; “storm surge” is the term for waves carried along by the hurricane that are many times as high as normal waves, carrying seawater inland and adding to the flooding caused by the torrential rain. Hurricanes are classified by their sustained wind speeds rather than their footprint, making comparisons difficult; A concentrated, high-energy storm may cause more extensive damage in a smaller area but a slightly “weaker” storm that covers a wide area will cause more total damage. Think of it as a rifle versus a shotgun; you don't want to get hit by either one, but the rifle has a much narrower path of damage whereas shotguns can hit multiple targets.

Strength Classification
The hurricane classification system uses five “categories” of sustained winds stronger than a typical storm:

  • A Tropical Depression is a storm with sustained winds below 38 mph.
  • Between 39 and 74 mph, it's called a Tropical Storm.
  • Between 74 and 95 mph, it's a Category (Cat) 1 hurricane.
  • Between 96 and 110 is Cat 2.
  • Between 111 and 129 is Cat 3.
  • Between 130 and 156 is Cat 4.
  • Anything over 157 mph is Cat 5.

Planning & Preparation
Hurricanes damage a wide area with wind and water, making recovery a state-level project. Restoring power is one of the main goals of hurricane recovery, since a large area is impacted and it's usually a heavily populated area as well. 

Preppers need to be able to take care of themselves and their families for days or weeks with limited power, services and transportation. Warnings are normally given a day to a week before the storm hits, so you can decide to leave or stay and you have time to top off supplies.

Tornadoes
Tornadoes are mostly a Great Plains weather event, as the conditions for their formation are unlikely in mountainous or forested areas. Hurricanes often spin off tornadoes to add insult to injury, so the two can be found together, but the singular or small cluster versions are more common in the Central Plains of the USA. Europe has smaller tornadoes and they're very rare, while those of us in Tornado Alley get multiple severe ones every year. Being far from the coasts, flooding is less of a problem, so most of the damage they inflict is from wind.

Strength Classification
Tornadoes are ranked by both wind speeds and damage potential. Named the Fujita (F) Scale after the scientist that created it, it's a scale from 0 to 5. Wind speeds are easy to measure, but damage is a bit more random, so the F scale is more of a “rule of thumb”.

  • A normal thunderstorm will usually have winds under ~70 mph, with little to no rotation of the storm. Once it starts spinning on itself, the winds pick up rapidly and things start to fly.
  • At 73 mph, we've hit F0 and can expect light damage to trees and buildings.
  • Between 74 and 112 mph it's an F1. Shingles start leaving roofs, cars are pushed off roads, and mobile homes become more mobile.
  • Between 113 and 157 mph it's an F2. Entire roofs are ripped off houses, train cars are knocked over, and large trees uprooted or snapped. Lawn furniture and light objects become missiles.
  • Between 158 and 206 mph it's an F3. Walls start following the roofs into the air, locomotives are pushed over, and flying cars become reality.
  • Between 207 and 260 mph it's an F4. Wood-frame buildings demolished, airborne missiles cause major damage.
  • Between 261 and 318 mph it's an F5. Entire houses lifted into the air, car-sized missiles created by debris are common.

Looking at the two scales, you'll notice some overlap in wind speeds. A Cat 4 hurricane has roughly the same winds as a F2 tornado, as an example. The two aren't comparable, though, because a Cat 4 hurricane will have a diameter measured in dozens or hundreds of miles while any tornado will be measured in feet or yards (the largest tornado on record was about 1.5 miles in diameter). Tornadoes also have drastically shorter lifespans and paths; while a hurricane can last for a few days and travel a few hundred miles inland before dying out, most tornadoes last only a few minutes and travel a few miles. Hurricanes grow slowly and are tracked as they approach land, but tornadoes pop up suddenly, almost at random, and are over by the time they start to be tracked.

Planning and Preparation
Tornadoes devastate a small area with winds up to twice as high as a hurricane. The damage is more concentrated and more severe, meaning recovery is either minimal or impossible. 

Utilities are normally restored within hours or days, but if your house was in the path it may not exist any more. I've seen neighborhoods after a tornado, and you can have a house standing there with minor roof damage next to a vacant lot where his neighbor's house used to be. 

Warnings are given only slightly before (and sometimes after) the tornado hits. When conditions are ripe for their formation the local weather-people will give the normal watch/warning speeches, but like the little boy who cried “Wolf!” they are ignored. Local warning sirens are the best we have, and they give you minutes (at best) to find shelter. Having a suitable shelter close by and good insurance is about all you can do to prepare for a tornado.


Hurricane season has a few months left, but tornado season is drawing to a close. We had a fairly quiet summer in my area this year but we're still dealing with damage from last year's “inland hurricane” that hit a wide swath of the state with Cat 1 winds. Keep an eye on the sky, and research the weather patterns for your area, so  that you are less likely to be caught by surprise.    

Thursday, September 16, 2021

An Oldie But Still Goodie

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 been cleaning out my gear from the places I used to store everything, and I discovered what I think is my very first piece of equipment that might be called "Prepping gear".

PALCO Camp Set
Palco Set 

 
I got this set sometime in the early 1960's for use on Boy Scout camping trips and used it well into the 80's while camping and hiking between Tahoe and Yosemite.. There was a plastic cup originally with the set, but it was lost (or more likely melted) somewhere. To replace it, I had a no joke, real-deal Sierra Club cup, purchased before they went completely 'off the rails'. The set nested well and took up very little space. The bottom portion with the handle served as a skillet and general purpose cooking pan while the pot with lid was for boiling water and cooking larger volume meals. 

The rich kids in the troop had the matching canteen from Palco, but that meant hanging a strap around your neck, while a surplus canteen would fit on a webbing belt and not swing around. 

Contents 
My friends all were Boy Scouts, so our gear was very similar and easy to plan around. Freeze dried foods were just being introduced at this time but were extremely expensive for us, so we packed in canned goods. After eating, the cans were put in the fire to burn off any residue, stomped flat and carried out with us. Once, on a longer trip, we hiked in 2 weeks before and buried supplies at the half way point. At the time, packs were all external frames so lashing a 5 gallon pail on wasn't a problem. 

From the 60's to now I can't remember how many sleeping bags, tents, rain flys or jackets I've owned and worn out, but this pot set always seemed to stick around. It appears that the Worchester Pressed Aluminum Corp. went out of business in 1976 after 45 years, so buying a new set isn't going to happen. I could find a set in very good shape, with the original cloth cover on eBay or Etsy for $20 and up, if I really wanted to. I don't, but someone might want to recreate their youthful camping trips.

Other Supplies
While shopping at my local Sam's Club, I found not exactly my favorite emergency food, but a good choice anyway: the Augason Farms Variety Emergency Food Supply Pail.

https://amzn.to/3lFM7Hk
Specifications:
  • Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal (1 pouch)
  • Strawberry-flavored Cream of Wheat (1 pouch)
  • Morning Moo’s Low Fat Milk Alternative (1 pouch)
  • Italiano Marinara (1 pouch)
  • Fettuccine Alfredo (1 pouch)
  • Creamy Stroganoff (1 pouch)
  • Chocolate Pudding (1 pouch)
  • Chicken-flavored Noodle Soup (1 pouch)
  • Cheese Powder (1 pouch)
  • Cheesy Broccoli Rice (1 pouch)
  • Creamy Potato Soup (1 pouch)
  • Creamy Chicken-flavored Rice (1 pouch)
  • Hearty Vegetable Chicken-flavored Soup (1 pouch)
  • Elbow Macaroni (2 pouches)
As I said, this isn't my first choice but the price and finding one on the shelf (the last one, too) was why I bought it. The meal mix is good and the Augason reputation is too, so this was an easy buy.
This particular item is now out of stock at Sam's Club, but it can still be ordered from Amazon

Recap And Takeaway
  • Using what you have that works, no matter what it looks like, is a wise use of money.
  • One Augason Farms Variety Emergency Food Supply Pail, bought at Sam's Club for $59.98 but available at Amazon for $79.99.
* * *

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, September 14, 2021

Companion Gardening: the Three Sisters System

As we head into fall and the harvest season, now is a good time to start planning our gardens for next year. These plans can include:

  • Clearing more ground for planting
  • Prepping existing beds for winter
  • Adding slow fertilizing agents such as manure or leaves
  • Planting crops that benefit from cold weather like garlic or winter wheat or rye

However, another item to consider when planning for spring is planting arrangements. Most people who garden are familiar with the concept of crop rotation; simply put, this is the practice of not planting the same crops in the same soil multiple years in a row so as not to exhaust the soil. Companion gardening, the next logical step after crop rotation, is the practice of using of certain aspects and requirements of one plant in order to benefit another plant. 

The most traditional version of this concept is called The Three Sisters Garden utilizing corn, beans, and squash, and this technique was used by American Indians to increase production and protect their crops for many hundreds of years prior to the arrival of Europeans. The corn stalks would provide support for the beans, the squash would shade the roots of the corn, and they would all protect each other from certain pests.

Two garden layouts for a Three Sisters garden

As a variation on this concept, in our gardens we plant marigolds around the tomato beds to help keep the bugs off, and pungent herbs such as basil and oregano in the same bed as the tomatoes to dissuade rabbits.

There are of course many more combinations of plants that benefit each other than these. I have an old book on the subject that, unfortunately, has lost its covers over time and the title is not printed on the pages, so I can’t pass that information on here. However, a multitude of other resources are available either online, such as Companion Planting: Three Sisters Garden Plans or The Old Farmer’s Almanac Companion Planting Guide For Vegetables as well as in print books, such as Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte or Veg in One Bed: How to Grow an Abundance of Food in One Raised Bed, Month by Month by Huw Richards.

These techniques, ancient on the one hand and proven by western science on the other, can both improve your yield and prevent disease and other damage when applied correctly. 

Good luck, and good gardening.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Erin's New GHB, part 4: the Shelter Pocket

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.

So after a trilogy of posts about charcoal, let's return to talking about my new Get Home Bag and how I've probably overpacked it.

The Shelter Pocket is to the rear of the main pocket on my bag. Since it's to the rear I've tried to fill it with lightweight items, and it just so happens that most of those are items which are related to putting up a shelter. As I might need to do that rather quickly to get out of the wind and rain, I like that I can access them quickly and with a minimum of digging. 


Here's how everything looked before I unloaded it. I took this picture not just to show you how it looks, but also to help me remember how to re-pack it because things never go back the same way twice for me. 

I'm going to divide the contents into three sections, with Front as the section closest to the top of the picture and Rear closest to the bottom. 

Front

Top Row:
Why an inflatable vest instead of a fleece? Because I live in Florida and it's rarely cold here, and because a fleece will take up more space than the folded mylar vest, and because this is a Get Home Bag and if it's during the cold months I'll likely have a coat with me anyway. The aerovest is mainly to protect against hypothermia caused by getting wet. 

Bottom Row:
  • An inflatable pillow;
  • cheap aluminum stakes for the tent;
  • a spool with 100' of paracord;
  • zip ties, because those are handy for a variety of purposes, and these can be "unlocked" and reused;
  • better quality plastic tent stakes.
Why two sets of tent stakes? Because the aluminum ones are so small and so light that there's no reason not to carry them. They can be backup stakes, or quick placeholders that I use before I set up something more sturdy, or I can stake down other things, or maybe I'll get caught in a windstorm and really want to secure my shelter. 

Middle
You can't see these in the first picture, but they're in there: a waterproof 2' x 2' square with blaze orange on one side and camouflage on the other (I folded it over so you can see both sides) and a small UVPaqlite "jerky light" (so named because it's vacuum-sealed like a piece of jerky)


Rear
So technically the books are also in the middle, but I took a picture of them here, so I'll talk about them here. 


Background: a 2' by 2' piece of wax-permeated canvas. I can sit on it while using the blaze orange square to signal for help, or I can sit on one and use the other as a work area. Both are waterproof. 

Top Row:
  • A "Hideaway Tarpaulin", which is a poncho that can be converted into a tarp shelter (includes zippered bag for carrying);
  • Two lawn-size trash bags and two kitchen-size trash bags, good for a variety of purposes including impromptu weatherproofing & insulation
Bottom Row:

As you can see, this should be everything I need to quickly protect myself from the elements and set up a shelter. Since I live in central Florida, I need very little in terms of winter survival as it only dips below freezing for a few weeks each year at the most. 

Tune in next week for what I hope is the final part of this series. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Defensive Driving

I received my first driver's license a long time ago. (No, we weren't taught how to drive on dinosaurs, but they were still in some of the older books.  David Blackard might remember them, though). The year after getting my license I worked a job that required all new employees to pass a “defensive driving” class taught by the State Patrol, and it was a four-hour class with lots of video and text presentations peppered with real-life examples from the personal experiences of the two trooper that gave the class. Most of what they taught hasn't changed, although “distracted driving” has been added as a hazard since cell phones have been invented in the time since then.

The definition of defensive driving varies a little bit depending upon the source of instruction, but it boils down to “driving to save lives and money despite the conditions around you and the actions of others”. Most of it is basic driver's education stuff, like:
  • Leave a 2 second gap between you and the car in front of you
  • Obey traffic laws and signs
  • Slowing down before a corner rather than hitting the brakes while turning
  • Manage your speed to match the road and weather conditions
  • Don't drive distracted, leave the cell phone on “hands-free” or ignore it while driving.

Some of the other points are a little more obscure and need some explanation.

Always leave yourself an “out”
Regardless of your speed or location, always have an option to get away from trouble. Bumper-to-bumper traffic is a good thing to avoid, since you're trapped between cars and if someone has an accident, you're stuck with it, and leave room to maneuver around the car ahead of you since you can't do much about the idiot behind you. I do this in parking lots and drive-throughs, always leaving a path out of the line instead of pulling up tight to the car in front of me. It may slow the line down a bit, but I've seen cars break down in a drive-through and everyone sat there until a tow truck could move the dead vehicle.

Driving down the road at the posted speed, keep looking around and noting where you can go if you have to leave your lane. Cars crossing the median, sudden break-downs ahead of you, and drivers going the wrong way down a highway are all things I've seen in the 40+ years I've been driving. Can I drive into the ditch safely, or is the median a better bet? Can I move over a lane or two at any time to get around debris on the road? Is the shoulder wide enough and in good enough shape to slow down on? Those are the kind of “outs” you should be looking for.

Know your surroundings
This should be second nature to a prepper, but some folks tend to zone out once they get behind the wheel. Nothing should surprise or scare you, so keep your head on a swivel and check all of your mirrors regularly. Watch for the speed-demons flying up behind you as well as the idiot towing a camper with a boat trailer behind that (I had to take a special test for towing doubles/triples, but CDL rules don't apply to cars). As long as you're obeying the rules, the sight of a police car shouldn't be a problem, but they have a tendency to make abrupt lane changes and U-turns to go after other drivers.

Terrain plays a part in this as well. Going up a decent hill means that the truckers may slow down, only to speed up as they go down the other side. Watch for the impatient smaller vehicles that will weave in and out of the trucks, only to get passed on the downhill side. Cool mornings or early evenings and valleys can create fog, which will limit your visibility, so be ready to slow down as needed.

What time do the bars close in your area? Around here it's between 0100 and 0200 hours. I live near the border between two states with differing laws, and there's often a rush of drunks at 0100 headed to the bars that don't close until 0200 for one last round, then a mass migration of drunks on the roads until about 0230 when they get home or locked up in the drunk tank of a local jail.

Expect the unexpected
I could tell lots of stories about the stupid things I've seen on the roads. What people will do while guiding a couple of tons of metal and plastic down the roads at high speeds boggles the mind, and the more unique things like tires bouncing across the median on an Interstate or a sheet of ice flying off the roof of a minivan into oncoming traffic on a two-lane highway can be (and were) lethal.

Pedestrians are some of the worst at pulling the unexpected on you. Kids darting into the street, idiots on cell phones walking into traffic, and jaywalkers popping out between parked cars to cross the street are all things you have to keep an eye out for.

Treat the other drivers on the road like they're all drunk
I've also heard is phrased as “treat them all like they want to kill you”, but the sentiment is the same: don't expect them to act the way you would, don't expect them to follow the laws or obey the signs, and don't expect logical thinking from any of them. Running red lights, refusal to use their turn signals, ignoring “Yield” or “Merge” signs, and the various incarnations of road rage all fall into this category. Treat them like they failed driver's ed. and don't know how to safely operate a vehicle, which when you see how some people get confused at four-way stops and those accursed roundabouts, is probably true. This means giving them plenty of space and letting them get away from you; if they're going to cause an accident, let it be somewhere that you're not.

Defensive driving courses are handy in some states for removing “points” from your driver's license and avoiding increased insurance payments. For preppers, anything that avoids unnecessary cost or delay is a good thing, so if you've been ticketed for your driving and can find a class, take one. 


Now that I look back on what I wrote, most of this advice is also applicable to interpersonal interactions on many levels outside of a car: maintain situation awareness, know where the exits are, avoid unnecessary confrontation, and don't assume competence. 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Where To Start?

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

Word is out around work that I write for a  prepping blog. Thankfully, only one person has asked the obvious and clich├ęd prepping question , and they were mildly happy to hear I didn't have a hidden hideout/bunker.

(If someone has recently hit the PowerBall, won the lottery or is otherwise able to afford and is interested in having a bunker, I actually know a guy that does them. Seriously.)

While most of us here at BCP have been asked the bunker/hideout/secret lair question, this was the first time someone has been happy I didn't have one. The more I think about it, the more I'm confused.

At the Beginning
An ancient Chinese proverb says "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." I didn't save the link to a guy who once said "Some is the same as none" when prepping, and don't want to raise my blood pressure by looking now, but needless to say I disagree. There has to be a first step, a first purchase and yes, a first mistake when prepping. I find my mistakes are much better learning moments than are getting things right, whether they be right by accident or right on purpose.

I admit to being a book collector and have bought many different prepping books, and here are three that I always have on hand to pass on to friends asking serious questions. A fellow by the name of Tony Nestor has written many different prepping books, and he wrote two of the three that I like to give out. 

1) Surviving A Disaster by Tony Nester

https://amzn.to/3zUK9bP
From the Amazon ad:
Could you evacuate from your home in 15 minutes with the pertinent survival gear necessary for overcoming a disaster?

The most effective means of surviving such an event is to have the essential gear and plans in place beforehand and this only comes from developing a mindset of self-reliance. In his third book in the Practical Survival Series, Tony Nester takes you through the scenarios, planning, and emergency kits for surviving natural and manmade disasters where you are forced to evacuate your home.

Surviving A Disaster covers methods that have worked for real-life survivors and delves into the practical skills that can be used for preparing your family and surviving on the run. You will learn how to formulate an escape plan for your specific region and what an evacuation entails along with a straightforward approach to assembling emergency kits for the home, office, and vehicle. There is also a special section on preparing children for a crisis and what their personal survival kits should contain. The strength of this book rests on field-tested strategies and pragmatic tips taken from actual first responders and survivors.
While the book is on the slim side at 58 pages, the information inside is worth it. The author lives in the Southwest, and so is familiar with wildfires similar to what we have here in California. The basic information is solid, even with the book being published 13 years ago. I've mentioned to my friend that when the time comes to start buying extra things to search out 'water filters', 'stoves' and 'first aid kits' as a start, since there have been amazing improvements in all three categories.

2)When the Grid Goes Down by Tony Nester

https://amzn.to/38WOBe8
From the Amazon ad:
Disasters come and go each year but it is through developing a self-reliant mindset, having essential survival gear and possessing a handful of critical skills, that you and your family will be able to prevail in an urban crisis.

Jammed with field-tested information from real-world applications, survival instructor Tony Nester covers how to prepare for both short-term survival ranging from 24-72 hours as well as long-term situations resulting from a grid-down emergency or pandemic.

When the Grid Goes Down will show you the 6 key areas to make your home and lifestyle more self-sufficient and the critical gear needed along the way. Topics Include: Creating a Self-Reliant Home, Water Storage and Purification Methods, Alternative Water Sources At Home, Creating a Water Map for Your Region, The 3 Essential Food Types to Stock Up On, Designing an Off-Grid Medical Kit, Home Security and Personal Defense Measures, Safeguarding the Exterior and Interior of Your Home, and Alternative Sanitation Methods.
Another slim volume at 78 pages but again, it has really nice information set out in easy to read and understand chunks. This was written in 2013, so I don't have as many small quibbles with the text. I especially like the chapters on Water, Food, First Aid, Home Security & Personal Defense, Heating, Cooling & Energy Needs and Hygiene & Sanitation. I've followed many of the suggestions in this book.


The last book I hand out is also the longest to read. It is fractionally more expensive, but it can make non-readers eyes start to glaze over due to the extra details... and pages. Not that it's too long; it's just not as easy to get through as the previous two.

https://amzn.to/3nxMypJ
From the Amazon ad:
Prepare. Survive. Thrive. Is your survival plan complete from A to Z? Are you truly 100 percent prepared? Because if you overlook one vital area, fail to stock one critical supply or underestimate one potential danger, your whole plan could come crashing down.

The Prepper’s Complete Book of Disaster Readiness guarantees you won’t miss a thing as you prepare for the most important moment in your life. This bible of prepping shows each and every life-saving step necessary to keep your family alive and well when the world around you is in chaos, including how to: Efficiently store water and acquire additional fresh water after a collapse; Build a shelf-stable food stock and supplement it by harvesting edible wild plants; Strengthen the security of your home as well as have a back-up bug-out plan; Treat illness and stay healthy when there are no doctors or hospitals; Build a safe and secure survival retreat that allows for long-term off-the-grid living.

While there is a small amount of overlapping information in all three books, this particularly covers preparing a house/apartment in a lot of detail: like 272 pages of details, including Note Pages. When I was sharing an actual house several years ago, I followed the home hardening tips as well as possible in the place we were renting. Things aren't quite as simple in a condo.

I particularly like the several appendices where the author lists his recommended books and has several checklists based on what has been written in the book. Due to the extra Suggested Reading, this could be a rabbit hole for some people, but as the author says, "I'm not sure which would be worse: not having a particular skill and having no means of researching it, or knowing damn well you have the information... somewhere... but can't find it."

Recap And Takeaway

  • I am going to purchase another set of these three books very soon, as the copies I have now are dogeared, page flagged, marked up and not attractive as a giveaway.
  • I will be going over the important information with the Purple Pack Lady when our schedules match up so that she understands why I have some of the "silly stuff" in my various bags.
  • Nothing was purchased this week.
* * *

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, September 7, 2021

Odor Removal

One of the constants goals of civilization seems to be making bad smells go away. Whether through soap, perfume, or deodorant, we regularly try to make things smell better. This can be a more significant issue with long term storage of fabrics; to this day I can close my eyes and vividly recall the childhood memory of canvas that had been in a box since the previous summer’s camping trip.

While there are a variety of products on the market that claim to remove or cover an odor, many of them don’t work as well as advertised, and their availability depends upon a working supply chain. However, there are still a number of things we can do with relatively simple ingredients to remove or cover smells we don’t want. The critical question is, are you trying to remove an odor or merely mask it with another scent?

Masking Odors
Masking is generally easier, though often temporary, and most essential oil-based sprays and scented candles can do that with varying amounts of success.

Scented Candles
Scented candles are another common method used to cover odors, but not just burning them. Placing a vanilla-scented candle in a tub or container for long term storage will infuse the contents with that scent, while absorbing some offensive smells. The same thing can be done with scented soaps or herbal sachets. In times past it was common to put pieces of cedar in with wool garments and blankets to help keep moths away, the cedar also infused the fabric with its pleasant fragrance.

Essential Oils
 My wife and I use a lavender-based spray when we stay at a hotel or friend’s house as a familiar and comforting scent. You can make your own essential oil spray fairly simply, using this recipe:

  • 2 cups distilled water
  • 2 tablespoons unflavored vodka or rubbing alcohol
  • 15-20 drops preferred essential oil
Mix the ingredients and put in a spray bottle. Increasing the alcohol to water ratio will make a spray that evaporates faster. 

Keep in mind, though, that citrus-based oils can degrade plastic over time, so if you are using that type of oil, consider a glass spray bottle.

When buying essential oils, make sure they’re the real deal. If all the different types are the same price, they probably aren’t all the same quality. Additionally, keep in mind that many essential oils are toxic to pets. From the Animal Medical Center of Deer Valley:
Essential oils harmful to cats
These include, but are not limited to:
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lavender
  • Oregano
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Sweet birch
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang Ylang
Essential oils harmful to dogs
These include, but are not limited to:
  • Anise
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus
  • Clove
  • Garlic
  • Juniper
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Sweet birch
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme
  • Yarrow
  • Ylang Ylang
Symptoms of your pet having a reaction
The symptoms of a reaction to essential oils are virtually identical to those seen in animals that have suffered poisoning. These include:
  • Breathing problems
  • Difficulty walking
  • Drooling
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tremors
  • Pawing at the face/mouth
  • Rash that develops on his skin
  • Redness or burns on their lips, tongue, skin or gums
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness / collapse
You may also be able to smell the essence of the essential oil on your pet's coat, skin or breath.
Removing Odors
True odor removal is difficult, time-consuming, and often expensive. Only you can decide whether or not the result is worth the effort. 

Skunk Musk
As anyone who’s ever had to deal with a skunked dog will relate, that’s not an easy smell to remove. There are many different home remedies, and the three most common are:

  • tomato juice (can be pricey)
  • hydrogen peroxide (also pricey and can damage fur)
  • vinegar (I spoke more about vinegar here)

The main benefit of tomato juice and vinegar is the acid helps break down skunk musk. As I had a darker colored dog the last time I dealt with this issue, I didn’t try hydrogen peroxide. In my experience,  tomato juice and vinegar were equally effective, but vinegar was noticeably less expensive and much less messy.

Cigarette Odor
Back when I was involved with WWII living history, I purchased an M1923 cartridge belt for my M1 Garand. The belt was in excellent condition, but it came from the home of a heavy smoker. I washed it several times and couldn’t get rid of the smell. What finally worked was packing it in baking soda and sealing it in a plastic tub for a week. After that, even when it got wet in the rain, there was almost no cigarette smell.

Mold and Mildew
Depending on the material, a 1:10 mixture of bleach to water works well at removing mold and mildew and their related smells. For more delicate fabrics spraying them with 91% or better rubbing alcohol, Everclear, or unflavored vodka (either straight or diluted with water) will destroy the odor causing organisms.

Clothing Odors
Finally, don’t forget about open air and sunlight. Hanging clothing outside on a dry sunny day can help remove odors considerably. However, for those with severe allergies, this is not recommended.


During a disaster, life will stink enough, and hopefully these suggestions will make that stink slightly less literal.

The Fine Print


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