Thursday, July 31, 2014

Generalist or Specialist?

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein

Generalist or Specialist?

Preparing to face a disaster requires a self-sufficient mindset; your goal is to take care of yourself and your family/tribe. The basics of food, water, and shelter should be (in my opinion) the responsibility of each individual (or family), but once those are taken care of, things get to be too complicated or time-consuming for a single person to be able to handle on his/her own. While it may be possible for a person to live the hermit lifestyle and be a "lone wolf" after TSHTF, it is neither as easy nor as comfortable as being part of a team or tribe where duties and responsibilities can be shared. Nobody can stay awake forever, so you must have exceptional security measures in place while you sleep... or you could just have someone else stand watch while you snooze. Certain things just can't be done alone, so having others around you will be important.

The question is, what kind of people do you want to surround yourself with?  There are two types: generalists and specialists. 

A generalist is someone who has at least a minor level of knowledge about a wide variety of things. (See the quote that opened this article.) I consider myself a generalist - as one of the older members of the writing staff here, I have led a varied life that has exposed me to a lot of things and I've tried to learn from them.

A generalist will usually be able to "get by" on what he knows and be able to adapt knowledge from one area to suit a problem in another area. An example would be a Ford mechanic having to work on a Honda, or an electrician rebuilding a car starter. The job would be close to what they're used to doing, and if they have general knowledge of what needs to be done, they stand a good chance of being able to make it work.

Specialists are people who have detailed and intimate knowledge of a specific field. Doctors are a good example of specialists, even the general practitioners. They have very detailed training and knowledge of the human body, what can go wrong with it, and possible ways to fix damage to it. Doctors are very useful to have around, but they have gotten so specialized that they are almost worthless outside of their specific field of study. Would you ask a plastic surgeon to do heart surgery? How about seeing if the ear, nose, and throat guy can do anything about a burst appendix? Unless his hobbies range beyond golf and watching others play sports, your doctor may be "dead weight" on the team more often than not.

Most preppers are going to fall into the category of generalist with maybe a specialty or two per person. This is neither good nor bad, it just is. We tend to be "tinkerers" with a wide variety of interests and are looking for ways to "make do" without the aid of normal infrastructure. Until there is the established security (food, water, shelter, and protection) afforded by a community, there will be very few true specialists.  It takes too much time and effort to become a specialist in any field for any one person to do it truly alone; they will need to be supported as they learn and practice their art. Someone who is spending four hours a day tending a garden or searching for food and then another four hours standing guard duty will not be able to become, or work as, a specialist in any field. Most skills are perishable, which means that they will deteriorate if not practiced on a regular basis. There is a place for specialists, but it is not somewhere in the backwoods, living in a cave all alone.

Making it Work

Now that you have a team or tribe, how do you break down the many jobs that are going to need to be done?

  • If all of the members are specialists in one area or the other, they may not be of much use outside of their area of expertise.
  • If you're all generalists, you're going to run into problems that only a specialist can handle. 

Your team is going to have to find that point of balance where things can get done with the people available, but without having to carry "dead weight" in the form of overly specialized people. There will be a certain level of dead weight present in the form of small children and the elderly, but one represents  the future and the other brings knowledge of the past.

Situations will vary according to your location (climate, terrain, resources, etc.), the specifics of how TSHTF (earthquake, EMP/CME, civil war, etc), and the members of your team/tribe (age, level of training, injuries, relationships, etc.). I have written before about nobody being useless, and I stand by that belief. Find out what you have available in skills of your teammates and work with what you have or go looking for what you need to round out your team. Only you can really decide how to divide the labor involved in staying alive after TSHTF, so start talking to your team or tribe now, while you can still do it in moderate safety and comfort.

All of this is my round-about way of setting up the next several articles. I will be focusing on old-time skills and how they were used in the past and how they may be used in the future. As I've stated before, I am what used to be called a "survivalist" back before that word got negative connotations attached to it by the media. My preps are aimed more at the next generation or two than the next day or two.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Prudent Prepping: Personal Protection

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Now we concentrate on what to do in, and how to plan for, the long term via Prudent Prepping.


Personal Protection:

 Safety from the Clean Point of View

I realize that title has two possible, popular meanings, but neither of them will be discussed today. You can read better and more detailed articles from others, elsewhere. Bing is your friend!

Washing Up

On several different camping trips, both in the Boy Scouts and with others, I have had problems with cleanliness: not lack of showers but poor sanitation of pots, pans and water purification. There is nothing worse than the feeling you get from eating bad food or from dirty dishes. At its mildest, the symptoms are stomach cramps and diarrhea; in people with immune problems, poor health or under stress, these can be deadly.  Having containers large enough to hold enough water to wash and rinse dishes, cooking pots and pans is important - not just for a group but also for an individual.

If using water from an unknown source, you have to get it boiling for one minute to be safe*, longer at high altitudes. There needs to be enough hot water to wash and then rinse everything used to cook. To save wash water and time, scrape all large particles off before washing.

Other options to reduce the volume of water needed are using smaller plates and bowls so that less water is used in cleaning, or cooking one-pot meals if alone.

* Editor's Note:  Not necessarily. To kill pathogens you simply need to raise the water to pasteurization temperature instead. The problem is that most people don't know how hot that is, and so the rule of thumb of "make it boil" was born.  However, this takes time and fuel. 

A handy way around this is to get a water pasteurization indicator (WAPI). Lightweight, inexpensive, and idiot-proof, these have been distributed widely throughout the third world. They consist of an amount of wax sealed inside a weighted length of clear tubing. Simply lower the WAPI into the water like a tea bag, and make sure the wax is in the upper part of the tube. Heat the water until the wax melts and flows to the other end. This indicates that the water has reached pasteurization temperature and is now safe to drink.

Personal Cleanliness

I will only be speaking to men here, since being one that is all I'm safe in addressing. Please read my friend and co-blogger Evelyn Hively's articles here and here for the woman's point of view and issues. Or just look up all her posts, starting from January!

I have washed myself off fairly well with a quart of water and a washcloth while camping and, with some care, had enough water left over to wash my hair. In my B.O.B. I have made room for Tinactin antifungal powder, to use on my feet and elsewhere. I can't speak to multi-week deployments (there are potential articles needed for that), but on week-long camping trips, nothing can reduce your fun faster than a bad case of Athlete's Foot or jock itch.

I have washed socks in my cooking pots and have gotten them dry, even in bad weather, by wringing them out as much as possible, draping them carefully over the empty wash pot on a low fire, and then tucking them inside my clothes under my belt to finish drying. It's not the most elegant method, but it gets the job done.

If you can't change socks or wash them out, doing anything to air them and your boots out will help to improve both their smell and insulation. . Dirty, sweaty clothes lose their insulation factor just like wet clothing does: the air trapped in the fibers is replaced with body oils, dead skin and dirt. If you can't wash or change clothes, airing them out in direct sun can make them feel and smell (somewhat) better. First, shake your clothing hard, several times and then lay it out in the sun, but off the ground to help air to circulate. Turn them over and inside out, to get the best exposure to the sun's UV rays. Do the same to your underwear, jackets and sleeping bag. The stronger the sunshine, the better and faster you will have 'cleaner' clothes.

Recent purchases

Several small additions were made to my supplies:
  • Two 10-count boxes (individual servings) of instant coffee from Trader Joe's;  $1.99 each
  • One pound of raw Turbinado sugar from Trader Joe's; $3.49
  • Two 4oz bottles of Dr Bronner's 18 to 1 Hemp unscented soap from REI; $4.50 each
  • One UCO Stormproof Match Kit, yellow container from REI; $6.95

As always, 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, July 29, 2014

Outdoor Element Kodiak Bracelet

It seems that everyone is making a paracord bracelet these days, and with good reason: 550 cord is incredibly handy, and being able to have 8-10 feet of it in a compact package is even more so.  In such a saturated market, a product has to have something special to make it stand out.  Outdoor Element has done just that with their series of bracelets.

I ran into the owner at a gun show about six months ago, where he was demonstrating his newest product, the Kodiak model.  After playing with it in his booth for a few minutes, I laid down cash and picked one up.
The Kodiak, like all other paracord bracelets, contains 8-10' of 550 cord in a variety of colors (length determined by the size of the wearer's wrist).  However, that's where the similarities with other bracelets end.  The Kodiak (and all other Outdoor Elements bands) has a fish hook tucked into the weave (covered with a protective plastic).  The Kodiak also contains a ferrocerium rod and striker in the buckle, and two strands of braided fishing line and a strand of jute tinder, in addition to the standard 7 cord strands.

Close up of the various strands in the material.

So, how good is it really?  Well, we've already discussed that I'm hard on gear.  This band has spent the past six or so months on my wrist or my backpack, and shows almost no signs of wear.  It's had gasoline, old oil, and engine sludge on it, and shows no deterioration.

My personal Kodiak after months of wear.
The fish hook looks identical to the standard hooks in my fishing gear, and the line seems tough and durable.

The striker and ferro bar work rather well, especially once you get the stroke figured out.  (Practice with all your gear.  You sink to the level of your training, experience, and practice, rather than rising to the occasion.)  Jute happens to be one of my favorite tinders, and this jute catches just as well as any other.

This does lead to the one weakness of the band, though:  It's not waterproof.  I had some concern about whether the jute would light when wet, so I took a spare piece of the cord material that I got from Outdoor Element and set up a test.
  • I sealed up both ends, exactly as they do in the actual product.  
  • I then dunked it in water for a three count (as if I'd dropped something in a body of water and then retrieved it). 
  • I pulled the jute immediately afterward, but was unable to get it to light with a match.  
I wish there was a way to correct this, but I don't see one, given the nature of the materials.  The moral of this story: don't depend on a single fire-starting material.

Overall, I give the Kodiak 4 stars out of 5.  It's an innovative idea, I like it, and will continue to wear mine, but I really wish there was a solution to the tinder problem.

Outdoor Element also makes other models of bracelets if the Kodiak isn't up to your needs.


(FTC Disclaimer: As I said above, I shelled out my own shekels for this.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Simple Comforts: Toys and Games

In my first post on knitting and crocheting I made a quick mention about making toys for kids, but now that we've practiced the basics a bit I feel this is the perfect time to jump into the actual making of them.

There are several ways that a prepper could approach the concept of toys for their bug in preps and vehicle bug out preps. I don't specifically recommend that an adult carry around a toy in their bug out gear (especially if they don't have kids), but a small toy in your children's bug out bags wouldn't be a bad idea. (Bonus article: Choosing a Bug Out Bag for Your Children.) However, since bugging in is preferable to bugging out, I'll be taking the approach that you'll have the tools and resources to make toys at your bug in location.

Toys for Young Children

One of the best reasons for having a few toys (like dolls, teddy bears, pick-up sticks, etc) is the Trauma Teddy.

You know, Comfort Bears? They were the bears (and other stuffed animals) that paramedics, firefighters and police would give to people who were in need of something to hug and hold onto to calm down. Sound familiar now?

These comfort toys would be specifically set aside for when SHTF. Let's face it, most kids these days are little technophiles despite their parents' best efforts. So, save for very young children, you'll most likely not need very many stuffed animals.

Another reason for least learning how to make  these toys is that it's a skill that you can use in making items for barter. You can also teach the skill to folks in your tribe who might be down from illness and injury, or even from being pregnant, but still want to contribute.

One of my Facebook friends even told me about a friend of hers who was using the toy to focus on while in labor! In addition, it became the baby's first toy.  So if you're pregnant, this could be a fantastic way to start building a bond between mother and child (or father and child).

Games for Older Kids 

These should include checkers, chess, Stratego, Battleship, etc. -- things that involve practicing strategic thinking, problem solving, and not rushing through choices.

In addition, there are other games that you should be playing with your kids right now, like "I Spy With My Little Eye", "Kim's Game", and "Hide and Go Seek" -- the old games that forced you to pay attention to your surroundings and that ended (and started!) sibling feuds.  Ah yes, those were the days.


Now being the hands-on woman that I am, I have some patterns here picked out for you.


Also, because there were just so many awesome toy patterns, here's a link to an article on my personal blog where I pulled several of them together into one place: Toy Emporium?

A Minor Rant

Now, I've spent several hours working on this article -- digging through dusty forum boards that have been cached, websites defunct for weeks/months/years, as well as current sites -- looking to see what other preppers are saying about toys for kids. And what do I have to show for it?  A (figurative) nose full of dust.

The one incredibly annoying thing that kept popping up as I researched this article was how adult preppers would end up talking about their "toys".  It's as though, in the prepping world, children are mainly an afterthought.  This might be a reflection of today's values or lack thereof, but that digresses into politics and you probably know what I think of politics.  I have the few sparse links that I could find linked here along with other groups here in the US who do the Trauma Teddies.

More Information

Bears on Patrol, a Trauma Teddy charity

Sites with tips on choosing toys and games for kids (not from prepper related sites but info is info!)

Articles on prepping with children:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Shout-Out: Firehand

Go over to Firehand's blog, Irons in the Fire, for a detailed description (with pictures!) on how to make kitchen knives from a flat piece of O1 tool steel.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Guest Post: How to Make a Paracord Sling

by Firehand

Erin linked to this 'How to braid a paracord belt' post not long ago, and after looking it over I thought two things:

1)  If you needed cord, this braid will pull apart fast & easy
2)  This would make a good sling.

So I made one, and it works nicely (I used five loops instead of four). I did wonder about another method of attaching the end buckle - or in this case, a sling loop - at the end, so fiddled with it and came up with this:

Get it to the length you want.

Pull the through loop line all the way through

Loop it up through the sling loop...

...and then through the first loop on the braid. It'll look like the finger loops

Repeat all the way down.

Take the end through the loops...

... and tighten it all up.

I'm doing some messing around with this last step. Melting the end to attach it to the end loop would lock it, but I'm thinking that tying a half-hitch tight against the end of the braid, then melting the end, would be a better way to go; that way you could cut that end a bit more easily to get it loose if you need to unravel the sling.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Continuing the topic of all of the electronic gizmos that we've become accustomed to, I want to share a little info about a common configuration of power plugs- USB.

USB stands for Universal Serial Bus and is an electrical standard agreed upon by computer and electronics makers. Thankfully, cell phone manufacturers have finally decided to adopt the USB standard instead of using proprietary plugs for the phones sold in the last few years. This makes it a lot easier to find one charger that will fit your phone, MP3 player, emergency radio, GPS, and most other electronic toys. There are also USB-powered chargers that will recharge other common batteries.


USB plugs come in a few styles and sizes. Basically there are two types called A and B, and they come in Standard, Mini, and Micro sizes. (Pictures of the different plugs can be seen here.)

Left: USB A. Right: USB B.
Picture in public domain. 

USB 1.0 and 2.0 use four wires in each plug, the outside ones carry power and the inside pair carry data. 3.0 uses more wires, but the plugs are back-compatible to 2.0 so you shouldn't see any difference when using it for charging. (The technical details can be found here.) Make sure you have the cords that you need to connect the charger to whatever it is you need to charge.


These are a few of the commonly-used USB chargers. At the top is a car charger for my cell phone, but it will also charge my MP3 player and camera since they all use the same micro B USB plug.

The white block is a wall charger that has a Standard A port on it.

The third one down is a car charger with two Standard A ports.

At the bottom is a pocket-sized backup battery pack.

The car charger doesn't need much explanation, most people have seen them and know how to use them.

The wall charger actually came with my phone and is rated for 2.0 Amps (2000mA), which is about four times what the USB 1.0 port on your computer will put out. This allows the wall charger to recharge a phone faster than plugging it into a PC and is safe for modern electronics.

The dual port car charger allows me to charge or use two devices at the same time, so I can have the GPS plugged in and be charging my phone at the same time. It also comes in handy when there is more than one phone that needs to be charged at the same time.

This is a back-up battery pack that I bought for about $10.00. It has enough power to recharge my cell phone once (before needing to be recharged itself), and once charged can be stored for up to a year without going dead. It came with a cord (that didn't make it into the pictures because it was in use) that has a Standard A plug on one end and a Micro B plug on the other end.

To charge the battery pack I plug the Standard A end into my PC or wall charger and the Micro B end into the port on the battery pack shown in the picture to the right.

To get power out of the battery pack I plug the Standard A end of the cord into the port on the other end of the pack (shown on the left) and use the Micro B end to connect to my phone or other electronic device.

There are other alternatives out there for charging USB ported devices. I don't own any of them (yet) but they may be what you're looking for to add to your preps.
There are pictures out there of people who still had power after a disaster running extension cords out to the sidewalk and allowing their neighbors to charge their phones and thing. This isn't a bad way to help others and maybe build some goodwill. At the very least, power may be something you may have that you can barter with.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Prudent Prepping: The Pantry Post

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Now we concentrate on what to do in, and how to plan for, the long term via Prudent Prepping.

 Food Storage and Safety 

Why what you can and can't see
could ruin your Preps

Keeping your regular pantry items safe, along with the supplies you have stored, is my topic for the week.

Indianmeal moth 2009.jpg
Not actual size, folks!
"Indianmeal moth 2009" by Kaldari 
Once, in a house I no longer occupy, the pantry had some small moths flying around it. Nobody thought much about it until the pancake mix waaay in the back was pulled out and little webs and junk were found inside.

The moth turned out to be an Indian Meal Moth. They are 1/4" long, lay hundreds of eggs and are difficult to get rid of, so the best course of action is not have them in the first place. As it turns out, the bulk food store where we used to buy grains and nuts had a problem that we brought home. These things are able to get into sealed packages, especially paper or cardboard containers like flour, cereal, cracker and cookie boxes use.

This is why I am putting my normally packaged grocery items into 5 gallon food grade pails, like these, from I can pick and choose the size and type I want, and since the company is close to me, I can drive there to save shipping costs and time. (Editor's Note: Individual buckets are available only for pick-up in Sacramento. If you wish to have them shipped, you must purchase the 3 Bucket Pack for $32.40.)

Going forward, my plan is to start purchasing some items from suppliers who already have food in storage containers or airtight foil packaging and then place them into my pails. My planned-for disaster is an earthquake, so all my containers will be duplicates of each other, with every one containing a portion of every item. That way, if one pail is crushed or not retrievable, all the pasta or spices will not be lost.

Since I am not buying loose grains, I don't need to have Mylar liners at this time, but they are on my list... just not at the top.

After looking at the pails and asking some questions in person, I will be buying 4 buckets to start. Please check for local suppliers; you may be able to do better than this and if so, good for you!

Other Items

A friend from work just gave me two items I just never got around to ordering: A P38 and P51 can opener! He buys them 6 at a time and gives a pair to people he knows would like and use them. Here is my pair!
They are stamped 'US Shelby Co', which is a long time manufacturer of openers and I would like to compare them to a vintage set to see if the metal is the same. These are going in my Get Home Bag and I'm ordering 2 more sets for the big bag and the in the car kit.

The only other item going into the box this week is a 4lb 8oz can of Tang, good for 22 qt. of Vitamin C containing drink. $6.98, from Sam's Club.

As always, 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 be 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, July 22, 2014

AC Power Part 2: It's Rather Dark In Here

Now that you know how the power in your house works, let's look at what to do when it stops working.

Blown Fuses/Tripped Circuit Breakers

Probably the most common source of power loss the average Joe will see, this type of failure is almost always limited to a single circuit, or a group of electrical devices.

The cause of a blown fuse is frequently an overload - where someone attempts to draw more power that the circuit can handle.  The fuse burns itself out to protect the rest of the circuit.  Otherwise, this condition would present a major fire hazard.

To remedy a blown fuse:
    A blown fuse.
  1. Unplug or turn off all devices that lost power, if possible.  If you can, move some to outlets that still have power. The goal is to lessen the load on the fuse to a level it can handle.
  2. Once that is done, determine which fuse is blown, and replace it.  Generally, fuses have an indicator that changes color (usually to black), or makes the broken internal filament clearly visible, to show that it needs replacement.  
  3. Always replace a fuse with one of the exact same type and amperage rating.  Using a lower-rated fuse will cause repeated failures.  Using a higher-rated fuse brings us back to the fire hazard mentioned before.  
  4. If the same circuit repeatedly blows fuses, even after reducing the number of items using it, that can be an indicator of a serious problem and needs to be addressed by a qualified electrician.

The remedy for a tripped circuit breaker is the same as a blown fuse: 
  1. Reduce the load on the circuit, and reset the protection. A tripped breaker is easy to spot, as it will be in a central position between its "On" and "Off" setting, that it can only reach when it is tripped. 
  2. To reset, move the handle fully to the off position, then return it to the on position.
  3. As with fuses that blow repeatedly, a breaker that continues to trip needs to be addressed by a qualified electrician.

Tear-Outs and Downed Lines

A tear-out is when power lines are pulled from the ground, usually by excavating equipment.  There is an entire host of things that can cause downed power lines.

If you come across a tear-out or downed line, stay clear. Whether or not you can see it actively sparking, dangerous levels of power can still be present.  Call the local electrical utility or 911, and keep bystanders clear until professionals arrive.

This is a tear-out we had last week at work.  The location of the wire had been marked, but the equipment operator missed it.  Luckily, the operator was being careful enough that, while he destroyed the conduit, the wires were undamaged.  However, it took us a couple hours of testing and some specialized equipment to determine that everything was safe.  Had it not been safe, it could have been a very dangerous situation.  Being bad enough to make a professional adopt an extra level of caution should convey the level of hazard posed by this particular problem.

If you're doing any kind of serious digging, especially with equipment, please call all your local utilities and have them send out a locating crew, for everyone's safety.


Monday, July 21, 2014

You never really know...

My post today is going to be a rather short one, and for that I'm sorry. This past weekend I lost a friend, Casey Spradling, and it left me without many thoughts save these.

First I'm going to tell you what happened: He collapsed suddenly at his job, was rushed to the ICU, placed in a drug induced coma, and was gone by Friday. As of yet, the doctors' best guess as to what happened was that he had a massive heart attack, and they aren't really 100% sure about that.

Now I'm going to tell you the part that was rather awesome: during that time of uncertainty, his Facebook page blew up with messages of support from everyone who had met him, even for just a few minutes. These were people from every walk of life possible, and with his passing, the outpouring of love and support from us to each other grew even more. It's honestly hard to say how many new friendships were created by this single painful event.

Dozens upon dozens of people were reaching out to complete strangers in an effort to support each other through this. Christians, Atheists, and Pagans alike were joined in the single purpose to either create a miracle or ease his passing. Anarchists, Republicans, Democrats, etc., they didn't care about a political differences. All they knew was their friend was down for the count.

Casey was one of those people who, during SHTF, could have shown up and been fed, clothed and welcomed with open arms at my home. He was someone I wouldn't have turned away for any reason.

You can't tell me that you KNOW you're going to make it SHTF and make it through. You just can't. Does that mean you shouldn't prep? NOT AT ALL. It means you must take care of yourself as best you can. You must invest in every friendship, be they prepper (or not), your same faith/politics/sexuality (or not), et cetera. You do so without expecting a return. You do it because you just don't know how a day is going to go. Tribe is anyone you feel close to, regardless of how small the connection.

This weekend, I met the Tribe of Casey, and it was glorious.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Hurricane Preparedness: Lots of Scary Facts

Not actually Erin.
Picture by KJ Photography
& is used with permission. 
Last week, I talked about the evacuation ("bugging out") side of hurricane preparedness.  I originally intended for this week's article to be full of advice on how to make sure your home is ready for a hurricane strike, but I got a bit sidetracked.

Folks, I am absolutely astounded at all the people who seem to think they can weather a storm and end up paying the price for it. Therefore, before I talk about the actualities of bugging in for a hurricane, I'm going to try to scare the crap out of you so that you take it as seriously as I do.

Make Sure Your Home Can Take It
If you're a Floridian like I am, you're golden in this regard: as of 2013, we have the highest safety rating (95%) for hurricane-rated buildings and their associated code enforcement. However, if you live in other states, you might just be in trouble:
However, just because your home is hurricane-rated doesn't mean that it will survive a direct strike. While Florida homes may be built on the assumption that once every 50 years they will experience winds over a hundred miles per hour (115 mph in North Florida, 180 in the southernmost Keys), keep in mind that a Category 5 hurricane, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale,  is a storm with wind speeds "over 157 mph". Kindly note there is no upper limit there. Back in 2008, a wind speed of 211 mph was recorded as Hurricane Gustav passed over Cuba -- and that speed broke the instruments.  There might have been stronger winds; we simply can't know. 

Also, the duration of the winds is as important as intensity: a home might be able to withstand a 180 mph gust for a few seconds, but what about minutes? What about storms that last for hours?  To quote Robert Simpson (of the aforementioned Saffir-Simpson scale),

"...when you get up into winds in excess of 155 mph (249 km/h) you have enough damage if that extreme wind sustains itself for as much as six seconds on a building it's going to cause rupturing damages that are serious no matter how well it's engineered."

And Then There Are the Tornadoes
It's been proven that hurricanes spawn tornadoes. Fortunately, the tornadoes that spin off from hurricanes and tropical storms are usually weaker than their great plains counterparts (usually EF0 or 1, and rarely exceeding EF3). However, the key word there is "usually"; there are two recorded instances (Hurricane Carla, 1961, and Hurricane Hilda, 1964) which both spawned EF4 tornadoes.

Did you know that EF4 can get as high as 200 miles per hour? And that there is, in fact, an entire category beyond that called EF5 which is basically meteorologists throwing up their hands and saying "We have no idea how high this will go"?  A force 5 tornado is basically a town-killer. I sure don't want to be dug in on the day that a Cat 5 hurricane decides to get freaky and start tossing out EF4 and 5 twisters. 

Don't Forget the Storm Surge
"Storm surge" is a fancy way of saying "hurricanes also flood areas."  Storm surges are actually responsible for the majority of deaths in hurricanes, either from drowning (six inches of fast-moving water can knock a man off his feet), debris (a foot or so of the same fast-moving water can knock buildings off their foundations, causing them to crumble), or good old exposure, aka hypothermia. While not as impressive as the flooding caused by tsunami, they're a close second in terms of death and destruction.

Note here how even a Category 1 hurricane can produce a surge deep enough to drown children and many adults, and how a Cat 2 is over the heads of all human beings. Now think about what happens if all that water decides that you are in its way... well, you're going wherever it takes you, and if it decides to smash you into a building or dump some debris on you, then you really have no say in the matter. 

Fortunately, water behaves in rather predictable ways when it comes ashore, and there are definite precautions which can be taken to protect a house and its occupants from flooding.  Just don't try to wade across it if it's moving quickly, and don't try to drive across a flooded section of road!

Have I scared you yet? Good.
Folks, I am not kidding when I say "If they tell you to leave, then get the hell out of town." Nature is a mother.  Therefore, all posts after this will assume that you are attempting to ride out nothing more than a Category 3 hurricane.

Next week (as this article has already gotten quite long) I will talk about what you can do to make your home safer from wind and water. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Solar lights

Last week, I mentioned solar sidewalk marking lights as a possible source of lighting. Here's a bit of an expansion on that idea.

While walking through Wally-world the other day, I saw these on the clearance rack for $0.97 each.

Since that price is within my budget to throw away on toys, I bought a few. If they don't work out as emergency preps, I'll give them to my grandkids to play with.

I may be tearing into this one and seeing if I can replace the LED with a flashing LED to make it more useful as a marker light. A flashing light draws more attention and usually draws less power, so it should last longer than 8 hours.

These come with a tiny solar cell on the top, a rechargeable battery (2/3 AA), and a single 1 Lumen white LED. Testing is currently underway, but the display claims that they will give light for up to 8 hours. They come with a charged battery and a plastic tab that has to be removed to activate the light (the more expensive ones come with an actual switch, but cost $3.00 each).

How bright is 1 Lumen?

This is a hard one to explain, since there aren't many hard references to use as a base. A standard candle puts out about 12.57 Lumens of light, so this 1 Lumen LED is only about 8% as bright as a typical candle. Not a whole lot of light, but enough to dispel the night, especially in a small area.

What the heck is a 2/3 AA battery?

Batteries come in a variety of sizes, mostly standardized. The AA is a standard size used in games and small electronics. a 2/3 AA is a non-standard battery made for a specific application and is 2/3 as long as a standard AA cell. Another example would be the battery for an Aimpoint sight - it is a 1/3 N battery.

Solar cell? What's that?

A solar cell is a device that captures light and converts it into DC electricity. The one on this light also acts as a light detector and turns the light on when it's dark.

Possible uses:
  • Marker lights. This one's a no-brainer: you can use the stake that is either built in or attached to the light to stick it in the ground around your campsite. Cheaper than a glow stick, and it'll keep you from tripping over tent ropes and let you know which end of the tent has the door on it.
  • Tent light. Since it has no open flame, it is safe to bring into a tent and can be placed either on the ground or hung from the ceiling.
  • Night light. Regardless of where you're staying, if the lights go out some people have a hard time dealing with the dark. Any light is better for them than no light, and 8 hours of reusable light for a buck is a bargain. The low level of light will also be a blessing for anyone trying to sleep, since it isn't bright enough to keep you awake.
  • Guide light. A lot of hunting is done at daybreak, and a serious hunter will be in position in his stand or blind before the sun comes up. Having marker lights that can show you the path to your blind will make this a lot easier and safer.

Let me know if you can think of any other imaginative uses for a small, self-contained, reusable light source.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Prudent Prepping: Books, Before Prepping was Cool

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Now we concentrate on what to do in, and how to plan for, the long term via Prudent Prepping.

 Summer Reading List

A stealthy way to introduce Prepping to Alternate History, 
Fantasy and Science Fiction fans 

I can't remember a time when I didn't have a book or magazine to read, or drool over as an infant. My Mom says I taught myself to read by looking at Life magazine and describing what was in the pictures, and then she would read the short paragraph to me, pointing out the words as she went. When I was being punished and sent to my room, I would randomly read the encyclopedia. Books are still at the top of my list as a way to relax and unwind, and they often provide the side benefit of teaching me something new. Which leads to the topic of the week:

The End of the World (usually with a better ending)!

How do you get someone who is not already 'invested' in prepping to become interested in the topic? One way could be through books. This is how the idea (but not the actual act) of prepping started to grow in me.

The first time the term 'post-apocalyptic' stuck with me was from the movie, On the Beach, based on the novel of the same name by Nevil Shute. In this book, World War 3 has just ended and Australia has avoided the fallout cloud, but only temporarily. As is almost always the case, the book was better, but the movie does a good job of covering the main points. Oh, and Fred Astaire driving a D-type Jag, dueling with Ferraris, Porsches and Aston Martins was pretty neat to a young car nut! I didn't like the 2000 re-make at all.

This lead me to Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank, published in 1954. The book describes how a small Florida town survives a nuclear war.

Sometime in the late 1960s I bought my first hardcover book, I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson. I hope everyone is familiar with the story of The Last Man On Earth and how he survived the plague that turned everyone into vampires and zombies. Check out some of the movie versions - except the last one. It was not very faithful to the book at all.

From this start, there are too many books for me to remember, but here are a few standouts:
(In no particular order)
  • A Canticle For Leibowitz and sequels, by Walter M. Miller Jr
  • The Warlord series by Jason Frost
  • The Ashes series by Wm. W. Johnstone
  • The Postman, David Brin
  • The Ashfall trilogy by Mike Mullin. This series is notable in that it is a natural disaster (the eruption of Yellowstone volcano) and not nuclear war or plague that disrupts the U.S.
  • And the fiction (and non-fiction) of James Wesley, Rawles.
As you can see, disaster survival is a popular theme among science-fiction writer. What have you got on your library shelf, in the desk drawer at work or in your Bug Out Bag that can be added to this list? The best books are those which are both entertaining and provide ideas on how to survive. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dandelions, Stinging Nettles and Clover, Oh My!

Three weeds of annoying persistence, with secrets hidden within their simple (and in one case painful!) leaves.


Clover is an incredibly tasty wild green that people in almost every part of the North American continent walk past without much notice. With over 300 species in an incredibly broad range across the world, this simple little plant is most commonly recognized here in the United States as White Clover and Red Clover (named for the color of their blooms). When most people think of clover, they think of hay and food for animals.  The two species of clover I just mentioned above are the most common and are edible!

"Livada" by Snezana Trifunovic - User:Tsnena.
Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
"Trifolium repens" by Forest & Kim Starr. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
via Wikimedia Commons.
Yes, I said the humble clover is downright tasty. Once upon a time, when I still had a cabin in an area that I enjoyed, I used pick fresh clover and young dandelion leaves to help supplement my salad preps. Clover has a slightly sweet taste and the blossoms are edible as well.

Something to note about red clover: it's a source of many valuable nutrients including calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C. There is also a slowly growing body of evidence that suggests that red clover can help lower blood pressure (something to note for those of you who may take medicine for such a thing).


  • Seeds and dried flowers from clover can be mixed into flour supplies for breads and other grain stocks to add a boost of nutrients as well as extend the amount of food available for use. 
  • Young clover and flowers are eaten raw. 
  • Steamed clover makes a great substitute for spinach, too. Steam until just welted, season to taste, and dig in!

"Brennnessel 1". Licensed under
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike
3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Stinging Nettle

My apologies for the itch that may have erupted from your memory. If you were anything like me growing up, stinging nettle was your nemesis when adventuring. However, until a few months ago I was not aware that this bastard plant... was edible. Yes, edible.


  • Bring the water to a boil and drop them in.  They are tender almost immediately and ready to take your favorite seasonings.  It's a top wild source for Vitamin A and C. HOWEVER, only use plants a foot tall or less.
  • Older Nettle plant stems can be used for fiber making. 
  • Nettles can also be a source of vegetable rennet. Yes, rennet as in cheese-making rennet.  You boil the plant until there starts to be a oily extraction on top of the water.  I've heard numbers from 2/3 a cup to a cup and a half of chopped nettles for roughly a tablespoon and a half.  The amount of cheese that much will render, the numbers are scattered from 1 lb to 8 lbs of cheese.


"DandelionFlower" by Greg Hume.
Licensed under Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike 3.0
via Wikimedia Commons.
Now, dandelions are once again being recognized as food and have been cropping up in articles everywhere. So I'm not going to delve into them here; instead, I'll just give you several links to the articles as those folks have broken down the plant better than I could.

All three of these plants will often be found in the same meadows and fields.  Once you brush up on what they look like, they will be a welcome treat in the spring and early summer after a long winter of dried and canned goods.

The Fine Print

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