Friday, July 31, 2015

How Will You Deal With Sabotage?

& is used with permission.
It seems like most of my posts this month have referenced Naked and Afraid. That isn't intentional, but when I see I theme I tend to run with it.

Today I'm going to be discussing something that happened on Naked and Afraid XL. But before I go into that, I want start with some disclaimers:
  • I am aware that with every reality television show, there is lots more that we do not see and so we do not have context for many things. 
  • I am aware that XL seems to be pushing a dramatic narrative, and that annoys me (and detracts from my enjoyment of the show). 
  • I am aware that between editing and narrative, what we see is not the complete story. 
  • That said -- you can't film things that didn't happen, so if it's on film, it happened. Perhaps not in the same sequence, or with different motivations than shown, but visual proof is still visual proof. 
  • Finally, I am not attempting to assassinate anyone's character, but rather to use what happened as a seed for a thought experiment. 

What We See Happen
For anyone who doesn't watch the show, one of the participants had a meltdown after an argument (which, I note, was edited so we don't see the whole thing and therefore don't know what was said) and sabotaged her group by destroying survival equipment or throwing it into the river. 

Here's a video of the act in question:


My Question for Readers
Let us assume, purely for purposes of discussion, that something like this happens in your tribe/ survival compound/ whatever you call it. What do you do about it?

The immediate response from many folks is "We kill her, she's a threat to our survival, it's self-defense" or "Exile her from the group, possibly without supplies, depending on the damage and how I feel about the person."

Well, okay. I'm not going to tell you that you're wrong (although for legal reasons I can't tell you that you should do such a thing, either). What I am going to do, however, is bring up some points you might not have thought of, so that you can come to a conclusion now rather than being blindsided by events later. After all, not all prepping is material; consider this "ethical prepping."

What if she's a child?
Honora is an adult and therefore responsible for her actions. What if she were a moody 16 year old girl? (Right or wrong, we as a society DO give more leniency to children, especially female children; doubly especially if they're menstruating.) Do you kill her or kick her out then?

What if she's an emotionally troubled 10 year old? Are you still committed to death or exile (which, let's face it, is essentially a death sentence with nature killing her instead of you) ?

If so, can you live with yourself afterwards?

If not, what are you going to do -- try and rehabilitate her, and risk another incident which might be worse or result in death of another tribe member?  Or will you imprison her, in which case you are forced to keep her alive while she contributes nothing to the group?

If you exile her, how do you know she won't try to sneak back into camp and steal supplies, commit more sabotage, or burn the place down? How do you know she won't meet up with other survivors or raiders and say "Hey, I know a place that has food, water, and shelter. Let's go attack it!" ?

What if she has loved ones?
If no one likes the offender (such as Honora), then the answer is just a matter of personal ethics. But what if someone in the camp loves her and says "No, I won't let you kill her or exile her" ?

The simple answer is to say "If you love her so much, then you can leave with her."  That sounds all well and good until it's your group's only doctor saying that. Are you really willing to allow your source of medical knowledge to leave and depend solely upon what everyone knows about first aid?

If not, you might give the impression that justice can be manipulated via extortion.

If so, others in your group might feel that you made a terrible decision...

What if others resent you for it?
I truly doubt any prepper tribe will be a dictatorship, in which case there may very well be people arguing in favor of mercy. How do you plan to deal with a community that is unable to figure out what to do with a liability?

But perhaps you are a charismatic, benevolent dictator. Perhaps you rule with absolute authority... until you make an unpopular decision, such as killing a teenage girl, that leaves others in your tribe feeling that you are a monster. Are you ready for the split that may happen?  At best, it may just be feelings of divisiveness and friction between parties. At worst, it could lead to a coup, a mutiny, or whatever the proper term might be.

And if the person who is now in control of the tribe is the same person whose daughter you just killed... well, what do you think your chances are now?

In Other Words
Humans are stupid creatures who will bicker and fight among themselves even when their own survival is at stake. 

My Recommendations 
(such as they are, and for whatever they're worth)
  1. Think about this situation now, before it happens. Congratulations, you're already doing this!
  2. If you plan to form a tribe/ survival community, then you need to develop a legal code with pre-established punishments, and have everyone sign on. That way, when things DO happen, you can point at your Laws and say "I am simply enforcing what everyone has already agreed to -- if you want to be angry at someone, be angry at yourselves."  
    • Not that this logic will override reason, of course. But it does shield you (or whoever enforces the rules) somewhat. 
  3. For the same reasons as above, execution of the punishments ought to be a community matter, rather than a "group enforcer" who can be easily hated. 
  4. Make allowances for mercy in the rules, because sometimes The Law is not always Justice. However, these allowances should probably be codified in some way, to ensure fairness. 
    1. If pressed, I would allow for some sort of "second chance" policy for everything but the most heinous crimes. Perhaps instead of exile or death, the guilty party is restricted to half rations, or must perform hard labor -- something whose discomfort helps to reinforce the lesson of "don't do that again", but which does not leave lasting scar. 
    2. For example, Honora could have been told "Go get the survival tools you threw away, and until you bring them back you aren't eating our food, using our fire or sleeping in our shelter." Forced labor to replace deliberately destroyed resources is quite ethical, in my opinion. 
    3. If it happens again, that points to a pattern of misbehavior and therefore more drastic solutions need be implemented. 
  5. Remember that if rule of law returns, you may be held responsible for your actions. Have an excellent justification for everything that happens, and document as much as possible in case a loved one of someone who was executed decides to press charges. 

I realize this last point will meet resistance from the "Shoot, shovel, and shut up" crowd. And maybe that's a better policy; if no one knows you've killed anyone, documenting it is just generating evidence against yourself. However, if the body is found, and there's evidence or testimony elsewhere saying that you did it, it might be helpful to have your version of accounts documented and witnessed.

All of this is food for thought. Give it a good chew this weekend. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Computer Update Prepping

While it may not be a life-or-death problem, updating or upgrading a computer can be a potential disaster for those who earn a living with their digital devices. Microsoft is rolling out their latest (and last?) version of Windows, Win 10, in an almost irreversible update to Win 7/8. There is no rolling back to a previous restore point with this update. This can be troubling to those of us with a lot of data and resources stored on our computers. Here's how I'm prepping for the transition.

By the way: Apple products have had their issues in the past so I don't need to hear about how superior they are to Windows. We don't need to get into that Ford/Chevy, 45APC/9mm debate. If it works for you, be happy and let others find what works for them.

If you have data or files that cannot be easily replaced, you'd best have multiple copies of them. Everything electronic is ephemeral, it can be wiped out in an instant. It doesn't take a Solar flare or an EMP weapon to wipe out your data. I've had simple static electricity wipe out SD cards full of vacation pictures and USB drives full of files. My work files are backed up on an external drive and the really important ones are also backed up on a "cloud storage" service. Any disaster that wipes out that many copies is going to be bad enough that I won't be worried about computers for a long time after.

Back up often. and in detail.

Do your research
Going into the Win 10 upgrade, I read a lot of reviews and "expert" opinions about the upgrade.
  • Microsoft (MS) has finally driven a stake through the heart of Internet Explorer, replacing it with a new browser called Edge
  • They have also updated the search function to include voice input (if you have a microphone) and named it Cortana, after a character from the popular Halo video game series. 
  • There has been some discussion about the new Wi-Fi credential sharing option (Wi-Fi Sense). Basically, it defaults to share the login info for all of your networks (passwords are kept invisible) with all of your contacts on Facebook, your email lists, and Skype. This is designed to allow people to "crowd-source" wi-fi hotspots and minimize mobile data usage. Security experts are mixed on the vulnerability of using this feature, but it is easy to disable, which is highly recommended.

Make a recovery disk
Back in the days of Win 95/98 you could boot from a floppy disk. Those days are long gone. With Win7/8 you'll need a USB drive of at least 8GB or a few blank DVD-R disks. I keep a recovery USB for each of my computers in a safe as a backup to the recovery partition on the hard drive. Doing a search on your computer for "Recovery" will give the option to "create a recovery disk" and that should walk you through the procedure.

Set aside a couple of hours
The Win 10 is an option that, once selected, will download in the background. Actually installing it takes about two hours, and your PC will be out of commission during this tome. If you're on a laptop, use the power adapter unless you have a very good battery. Your computer will shutdown and restart several times during this process, so it's best to just walk away from it for a while.

Have a back-up plan for your back-up
If something goes completely bonkers during the update process, you run the risk of ending up with an expensive doorstop. A few people have already reported that their computers locked up during the update to Win 10 and turned into a brick. If that were to happen and your recovery disk can't get you back to your previous version of Windows, there is a solution: Download and burn a copy of Linux.

I actually like Ubuntu Linux, and it will run from the install CD without having to actually be installed. As a bonus, it's free. Their long term support (LTS) versions are supported for five years and it's difficult to write malware for any flavor of Linux, so you don't need to worry about anti-virus software.

Time to go see if I have a new operating system or a headache. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Prudent Prepping: Summer Sale

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.

Back in March, I wrote about making WAPI's available at a group buy price to BCP'ers. The original post is here, Erin's podcast review is here, and here's a quick recap:

"A Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI) is a simple thermometer that indicates when water has reached pasteurization temperature and is safe to drink."

Superwapi1 mediumAs stated before, the group buy price is $6 each, including postage. If you buy 5 or more, they drop to $5 each!

To make this price possible, the units are ordered in lots of 100. Your friendly BCP bloggers have already committed to a good percentage of that total, so the target is easily reached. I am adding one to each of my To Be Shared portions of my prepping pantry.

Include a WAPI with each stove or heating source, and also every mess kit/cooking pot in your BOB/GHB!

If you are interested in this important addition to your water purification system, please leave a comment with how many you want to buy, either here on the blog or on the BCP Facebook page.

Other Sales
My fascination with REI has been well-documented here and here, and I'm setting myself up again for even more disappointment: the Concord, CA REI is having a weekend Clearance Sale this weekend of August 1-2. I plan on arriving very early to see if there might be any bargains that might fit into my tiny budget.

Wish me luck!

The Takeaway
  • Safe drinking water is a priority, especially in disaster, hiking or outdoor survival situation 
  • I'm a glutton for punishment for even thinking about attending a REI Sale.
Nothing was purchased this week in preparation for the sale this weekend at REI.

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 28, 2015

Edible plants

Last week, Erin talked about plants you should definitely stay away from, and last year Evie talked about a couple plants with interesting uses. Today, we're going to take a look at other plants you should be seeking out, specifically because they're nutritious (and potentially delicious). There are also plants growing wild with various medicinal uses, but I'll leave those to folks who are far better versed in their use.

Wild asparagus grows over a huge portion of the United States, thriving in pretty much any place with sunlight and water. It is prepared exactly like store-bought asparagus; steamed, boiled, roasted, or any other method you like.
I'll admit to being a gross novice at actually harvesting wild asparagus beyond a bit of blind luck. However, there is a very in-depth article here that covers the topic in wonderful detail.

Prickly Pear Cactus
Many species of cacti are edible in some way or another. One of the best, and better-known varieties in the western and southwestern deserts I call home, is the prickly pear. While the stem of the cactus is quite edible when boiled, the real jewel is the red or purple fruit.
Be sure to skin the fruit before you try to eat it, because being a cactus, it has all of the traditional defensive measures.  Once skinned, the pulpy flesh inside is delightful.  Eat around the seeds, as they are tough and inedible.

If the area you're foraging in includes wetlands, cattails are a very real potential food source. Nearly all of the plant is edible, with boiling required on many parts to make it edible. Dig up the roots and boil them. Boil the leaves and stalks. The head of the plant can even be cooked and eaten like corn on the cob.

These three common, widespread edibles are high in nutritional content, simple to prepare, and can taste quite good.  While restricted in range, prickly pear fruit are a wonderful source of nutrition, water, and wonderful flavor.  The other two plant species are so widespread as to border on being universal, and can help save your life no matter where you're trying to survive.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Make a Cleaning Brace for an AR-style Rifle

One of the nice things about the AR pattern is it's fairly easy to clean. At its most basic, the procedure is:
  • Push out the lock pin at the back of the receiver.
  • Tilt the upper receiver up until it pivots on the pin in front.
  • Pull out the bolt carrier group.
  • Clean.
The problem can be keeping the rifle open to clean the bore and chamber:
  • You can lay it on its side.
  • You can take the upper completely off and hold onto it.
  • You can set the rifle in a cleaning stand and put something under it to prop it up, 
  • You can buy a brace that fits between the upper and lower receiver to hold them apart at the rear (preferably while you leave the rifle in some kind of stand).
You'll notice I did mention they make them. You can just buy one. Or, if you're cheap/ frugal/ 'Wonder if I can?' like me, you can make one instead.

I started out with a piece of heavy plastic (or delrin, or whatever it's called). There's a plastics company here in town than makes all kinds of stuff, including cutting boards, and some leftover pieces that they finish the edges of and sell as odd-size cutting boards. I picked up one (6" W x 12" L x 1" D) and cut it in two, using the two squares as places to whack my bullet puller on, or as a base for punching holes in leather/ rubber/ cork/ whatever, things of that sort. It's hard, and smooth, and a piece of it worked for this. You could use aluminum, or steel, or anything else you have available.

After some measuring I laid out guide lines on one edge (oversize, on the 'easier to cut down than add on' theory) and side.

Then it's off to the hacksaw and drill.

The AR family has a lug at the bottom-rear of the upper receiver that sticks down, and the takedown pin goes through it. (See Figure 8 in this illustration.)  The piece to go here needs a slot for that lug to fit into, and the piece that goes into the lower receiver has to fit inside the lug cavity.

The drill was used to make the end of the slot that the upper receiver will fit into, and yes, I got the hole a touch off-center. The hacksaw cut the sides to make the slot, and separated the upper and lower pieces. Edges not cleaned or trued-up here.

I had to widen the slot a bit, and narrow the bottom piece, and then set them in place to try for size.

Still a bit long; it'll need trimming. I also had to round all the corners on the ends to have clearance for it to fit at that angle.

A note about this material: it's soft -- I can carve it with a sharp knife -- but it's slick; a sharp file just wouldn't bite. So I had to use a rasp to do the widening and to narrow the bottom a bit. Coarse sandpaper would have cut it, too.

Then I needed holes for the takedown pins to fit through. A regular pen won't mark this stuff, and a marker was too thick, so I used the marker to darken one side of each block, then used a scribe (or wire or pin) to reach in and mark the bottom hole. The hole for the upper was 'figure where it should be and make a mark'; I could remove material if need be to make it fit. The rear pin measures .280", so I drilled holes just a touch wider in both pieces, and then tried it; trimmed it a bit to adjust and tried again.

It finally fit, which means the takedown pin will go through the lower piece, the 1/4" nylon screw I used would fit through the upper piece, and it all sat properly. I wanted to be able to adjust length, so I drilled a hole into each block and threaded it (3/16x24 in this case), and cut a piece off a long machine screw to fit. Which produced this:

It can be adjusted to hold the receiver more or less open. Yes, if you measure everything correctly, you could make this of one piece and not worry about the adjustment feature*.

Just for general knowledge: this was made for an AR-10 rifle, so the slot needed to fit around a piece right at .5" wide and the piece for the slot below about the same; an AR-15 receiver is smaller and would need the pieces sized appropriately.

*If it isn't necessary but you put it in anyway, it's a 'feature'.  I insist.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #49

Here's Episode 49 of your weekly GunBlog VarietyCast!

Included in this week's episode:
  • Adam and Sean tell you what podcasts we listen to. We listen to a lot of podcasts. You should too. But listen to us first!
  • Erin Palette talks poison plants with a quick primer on disease prevention in Gotham City.
  • Even Nicki Kenyon will eventually bow to peer pressure. You've been asking her to talk about Iran, so she finally does.
  • Our Special Guest, Reverend Kenn Blanchard tells us about this one time he found himself in deep, deep water and needed a miracle.
  • Barron B considers the Ashley Madison hack and what could have motivated it.
  • And Weer'd points out how the anti-gunners have gone beyond their usual lies and have started slandering the rest of us.

Thanks for downloading, listening and subscribing. Like and share us on Facebook, and don't forget to tell a friend.
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.
A special thanks to our sponsor, the Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout for 10% off the best legal self defense training you can get.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Poisonwoods and Death-Apples

& is used with permission.
Pop quiz: How many "poison" plants are there? And by that I don't mean plants which are poisonous; I mean the ones which cause contact dermatitis after touching them?

Answer: More than you think.

Last week I talked about good survival television and mentioned Naked and Afraid. One of the reasons I specifically added that show to my article is because it brought to my attention the existence of several poisonwood species of which I was previously ignorant. Everyone knows about poison ivy, and most of us who've been to summer camp or been in the Boy/Girl Scouts know about poison oak and poison sumac. But there are other, lesser-known species that are no less dangerous  and some are much more so.

First, the Classics
Special thanks to for these amazing maps and references. Be sure to follow the links below for more information, including lots of detailed color photographs of the plant in various seasons and environments. 

Poison Ivy
Eastern poison ivy and its Western sister species grows everywhere within the continental United States with the exception of California. It covers nearly all of North America, going as far north as the Canadian territories and as far south as the mountains of Mexico. Note that there are many states where both kinds exist!

Poison ivy likes to grow near water, such as rivers and lakes. Eastern ivy can appear as a vine or a ground plant; western ivy is ground-only. Both are equally nasty.
Poison Oak
Just in case you thought California was getting off lightly with not having poison ivy, let me introduce you to Pacific poison oak, which looks like it was specifically designed to bedevil Californians -- it's found all over the state, in all plant configurations, and when it burns in the state's frequent fires, the irritant inside it (urushiol, found in all of the species on this page) is aerosolized, meaning that breathing the smoke can result in harmful, sometimes even fatal, cases of rash on the inside of the lungs.

Oh, but don't be too smug, East Coasters: there's also Atlantic poison oak.

Poison Sumac
The good news about poison sumac is that it doesn't exist across the entire country like the others do. The bad news is that it's much harder to detect, as it doesn't follow the "Leaves of Three" rule. It simply has an odd number of leaves, between 7 and 13, on its branches.

It also looks like a shrub or small tree -- not a vine -- and so it's harder to detect and easier to bump into. The best way to avoid it to stay away from bogs, marshes, swamps and other wetlands where it prefers to live.

And Now, the Exotics
From the above illustrations, you can see that Florida, where I live, gets all three.

Well... five, actually. 

Also known as the Florida poisontree or hog gum, the Poisonwood is a flowering tree in the same family as poison ivy, oak and sumac. It can be found in south Florida (it grows abundantly in the Keys), the Bahamas, and all the way through the Caribbean. Its sister species, the chechem or black poisonwood, is found further south in Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and from southern Mexico (Yucatan to Veracruz) to northern Central America.
Poisonwoods are nasty customers. They are infused with urishiol in greater concentrations than ivy, oak, or sumac; it's practically acidic in the way it burns. In at least one instance, poisonwood sap resulted in a second-degree burn. Watch this video to see how quickly it starts affecting someone who's touched it.

Its bark looks like it is oozing sap, or has a skin disease.
For more information on how to identify the tree, visit the University of Florida School of Forest Resources & Conservation, because if you go on vacation in South Florida or the Caribbean, you WILL want to know how to identify it.

As bad as the poisonwood is, though, there's actually another tree in Florida that's much, much worse. How much worse?  The Spanish name for it has the word "death" in it.

The Manchineel, also known as la manzanilla de la muerte -- "little apple of death" -- will not only burn and blister your skin if you touch it, or you stand beneath it when it rains, its sap (or smoke from burning it) can also cause blindness and eating its apple-like fruits can kill you.
The caption for the above picture literally states  All portions of the manchineel tree are poisonous. It actually holds the Guinness World Record for "Most Dangerous Tree"! (I didn't even know there was a contest!)

Here's a first-account account of someone who ate a manchineel fruit -- a "beach apple" -- and lived to tell the tale.

Manchineel trees can be found throughout South Florida, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Central American, and northern South America.

If you plan on going on vacation to one of those places, then learn to identify it. Not every tree will be as obligingly labeled as the one to the right.

Side Note
There's actually a sixth poison tree, the Chinese lacquer tree, which is the same genus as poison ivy, oak, and sumac. But it only grows in China, Korea, Japan, and parts of the Indian subcontinent. But as this article is already excessively long and not many of my readers will encounter one, I leave its investigation as an exercise for the curious student.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Keeping Time

Knowing what time it is has become a basic piece of Western civilization. As soon as mechanical clocks were invented, they were placed high in public buildings to allow everyone an opportunity to know the time. Most clock towers had bells or some other signaling device to announce the top of the hour, and many small towns still mark 12:00 noon (lunch time) with a whistle, siren, or bells.

Up until about 20 years ago, most people wore or carried a watch with them all day. The proliferation of cell phones replaced the wrist watch along with the pocket camera, day planner, personal phone book, and pager. What can you do to prepare for the distinct possibilities of dead batteries, dead phone due to it being dropped in water or onto rocks, lost phone, or EMP/ CME* damage? A lot depends on how precisely you need to measure your time.

If you're using the flash-to-bang method** of telling how far away a lightning strike or explosion was, then counting out loud “one Mississippi, two Mississippi, etc.” will give you a reasonably accurate way of measuring small bits of time.

You can also estimate minutes (or hours) to sunset by this simple method:
  1. Extend your arm forward, with palm facing you. 
  2. Without looking directly at the sun, move your arm until the sun rests on top of your index finger. 
  3. Count how many fingers there are (alternating hands if necessary) until you reach the horizon. 
  4. Each index finger is approximately 15 minutes of daylight. 
From When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes, by Cody Lundin.
To be able to accurately measure hours, you're going to need a watch or clock. For fixed locations (bugging in, or at the bug out location), a decent wind-up alarm clock will keep time for you. Wind it up every night before you go to bed and they'll last a lot longer than any set of batteries could. The old mantle clocks and grandfather clocks were designed to run for up to a week before needing to be rewound (or have the weights reset).

Watches are designed to be worn or carried and work better than a clock while you're on the move. The features I look for in a watch are:
  • Non-electric. Search for “mechanical action” or “mechanical watch”. With no battery to replace, a well-made watch can last for decades. 
  • Waterproof. Self-explanatory - if I'm outside much, it's going to get wet. \
  • Replaceable band. The metal bands may look good, but I have never seen one that was built as well as the watch it is attached to. Bands break, so I want to be able to replace it as easily as possible. A covered watch band will protect the face of your watch and prevents reflection from the glass if you're trying to be stealthy. 
  • Self-winding. Also known as automatic watches, they have a small weight attached to the spring that winds it as your arm moves during normal daily activity. Not an option with pocket watches. 
You don't have to take out a second mortgage to get a decent watch, although there are some nice ones out there that cost as much as a used car, but you will tend to get what you pay for. Swiss and Japanese actions (the guts of the watch) are going to be more precise than those made in Mexico or China, but you'll pay more for them. Like any machine, get the best you can afford and it should provide you with years of service.

Look, up in the sky, there's a big ball of light that will tell you when another day has arrived. By making a mark on something every time the sun rises, you can create a simple calendar for tracking the days of the week. If you're living underground and can't see the sun, you'll need a good clock for tracking days.

Before there were water clocks and mechanical clocks, people kept track of weeks and months by watching the Moon. Lunar cycles are the easiest astrological sign to learn, since the Moon is a pretty big object in our night sky. It takes 28 days (4 weeks) for the Moon to go from new (dark or no Moon) through waxing to full and waning back to new.

Due to the axial tilt of the Earth, as the seasons progress the Sun will rise and set at a slightly different time and in a slightly different place each day. I have actually had to explain this to a high-school student, because he had never been taught it. 

The length of daylight hits a peak at the Summer Solstice (around June 21st) and the shortest amount of daylight marks the Winter Solstice (around December 21st). Halfway between the longest and the shortest days is the Autumnal Equinox (around August 22nd) where there are 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark marking the beginning of Autumn or Fall. Six months later (around March 21st) there will be another day of equal parts day and night, this one marking the Vernal Equinox and the beginning of Spring.

Spend your time well, friends.

*EMP/CME= Electro-Magnetic Pulse, an effect of high-altitude nuclear detonation that can fry electronics for hundreds of miles. Coronal Mass Ejection, when the surface of the Sun vomits forth a plume of highly energetic plasma in our direction, with effects similar to an EMP.

**Flash-to-bang. Since sound travels at about 1100 feet per second, much slower than light (186,000 miles per second), you can get a rough estimate of the distance from some action you can see by measuring how long it takes the sound to reach you. A mile is 5280 feet, so it will take sound about 5 seconds to travel a mile.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Prudent Prepping: Fire!

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.

Fire Is Not Always
Your Friend
I was going to save this for later in the year, but the Southern California fire this week and our ongoing drought made me do an article now.

What do these things have in common?

How do all these things relate? 
Be safe with your fire. When camping, or in Bug Out conditions, fire safety when cooking or heating is my first priority. Boy Scouts drilled into me the need to have solid ground as the base for campfires; backpacking reinforced fire safety when using portable stoves; and watching over 3,000 homes and businesses burn over 2 days (see above) gave me added respect for wildfires.

If you own a house or live on property that might be involved in a brushfire, even if in a city: protect yourself by clearing your brush, leaves and overhanging trees! If you need a time sink, look up eucalyptus trees, their introduction into CA and their major contribution to the 1991 fire, with the highlights in the previously mentioned Public TV article.

Doing fire prevention prep at my house
This is a normal suburban neighborhood built in the 1950's, with mature trees in all the yards.

This is a picture of my street.

There's not much I can do about the neighbors' trees, but I can make certain no leaves are on the roof or in the gutters, and all the really dry junk is as far away from the house as I can get it.

California is in the third year of drought conditions, with people mandated to reduce their water use 25-30% . This means landscaping is watered less and is a greater potential for dry brush (which used to be decorative plants) near our houses.

The hot, dry weather has also motivated me to better organize my Bug Out gear for a quick exit from home, and to carry a bit more stuff in my truck than normal for summer. Examples:
  • Extra water. I'm carrying 4L of water instead of 2 in my truck.
  • 2 Lifestraws. One for me and one to share. 
  • SPF 30 sunscreen in my first aid kit.
  • Fresh tubes of lip balm. Spares and extras to share.

The Takeaway
  • Fire is scary. Use it carefully. 
  • Protect yourself as well as you can by actively clearing brush and other fire hazards from around your house. 
  • Make sure your preps account for the summer heat.
Only one item was purchased this week: a water jug from Walmart to replace the one I gave as a gift last week.
  • One 7 gallon water jug: $17.99, last one in stock! 

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 21, 2015

Alternative Ferro Strikers

Ferrocerium rods are a wonderful tool to have around. They last virtually forever, they really don't care if they get wet, and they weigh almost nothing. If there's one weakness to a ferro rod, it's that the strikers that ship with most of them are less than stellar. They work well enough, but there are better options out there. These options warrant some exploration.

The characteristics that make a good striker are:
  • a hard metallic tool with a sharp edge
  • enough handle space to grip effectively.
Certain materials and shapes work better than others, and all will provide improved results with practice. Some of the more effective alternative striking tools are as follows.

"Hard tool with a sharp edge" pretty much screams knife. Knives actually make excellent sparks fairly easily, especially carbon steel blades. However, striking a ferro rod is hard on a knife's cutting edge, and I'm not really a fan of tearing up a knife if I don't have to. If the spine of your knife has a sharp 90° angle, that will work nicely; otherwise, use a knife as a striker of last resort.

Carbide Tools
Commonly found as knife sharpeners, carbide cutting tools make wonderful sparks. They have a very hard, durable edge and a good handle, making them easy to manipulate. Carbide is so tough that it can strike many times on a ferro rod without taking the kind of damage that a knife blade would take. In addition, they work great for sharpening your knife!

Hacksaw Blades
Your end result should look something like this.
Pieces of hacksaw blade are an old favorite of mine, and are actually what I learned to strike a ferro rod with. They work so well, in fact, that some ferro rod makers ship them as the factory striker. In addition, they're incredibly cheap.

The cheapest blade you can locate works wonders and will make 3-4 strikers.
  • Cut or break the blade into roughly 3" sections, using metal snips, pliers, or whatever other tools you have at hand. 
  •  Even clamping it into a vise and bending sharply will work. 
  • The mounting holes in the end pieces make a dandy place to attach a cord to hold your rod and striker together, and holes can readily be drilled in the pieces that don't have them.

All of these options present an upgrade to the basic ferro rod striker, or a ready replacement if a striker is lost. With a bit of practice, they make fire as easily as a match will, and in (nearly) unlimited quantity.


Monday, July 20, 2015

2nd Annual Writing Contest Winners

& is used with permission.
My apologies to taking so long to announce the winners. But now the wait is over!

First Place
Ray Davies' An Old Man's Guide to Bullet Casting. This was by far and away the most popular post in the contest. Ray wins a Spool Tool in the color of his choice.

Second Place
Beth O'Hara's Superfoods For Preppers. Beth wins a gently used (and personalized, if she desires) volume of Country Wisdom & Know-How.

Third Place
Winning by just a single point over the others is Keith Duke's Getting Robbed in Caracas. Keith wins a CRKT Eat'n Tool XL.

Honorable Mention
Craig Wiles' A Thorough Look at Solar Power was, indeed, quite thorough. However, the prices listed were off-putting to many people, which is why it didn't place. I will be hitting up Mr. Wiles for further information on solar power in the future -- perhaps he will be amenable to doing a podcast interview?

Congratulations to the winners!  And personal thanks to everyone who entered.

Flat Bread!

I'm actually rather proud of myself for this recipe. It took several days of experimenting, but now even my fiancĂ© loves the end result. 

But before we jump in, here are a few notes you need to read first:
  • If you want to make the recipe bigger just add 1/4 cup of each flour for every additional person.
  • For every two cups, add another egg. The recipe below has 2 cups of flour total and 1 egg; if you increase it to 4 cups use 2 eggs, 6 cups of total flour 3 eggs, etc.
  • If you need to remove one of the flours because of allergies, merely increase the other flours to 1/3 cup portions and expand your amounts based on thirds, instead of quarters or halves.
  • This bread does freeze solid... but after thawing, you'll need to toast it. It toasts up fantastically well when done Texas toast style (thrown into a frying pan or onto a grill).
  • It's best as a flat bread, but if you try it in a loaf pan, put all the batter into it at once.
  • Make sure all your pans that you use for cooking are well greased. Seriously! Especially the corners.

Flat Bread
  • 1/2 cup almond flour 
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour 
  • 1/2 cup flax seed meal 
  • 1/2 arrowroot flour 
  • 3 teaspoons tapioca starch 
  • 1 egg 
  • Milk (coconut, regular, goat, almond, etc) 
  • 1 teaspoon of salt 
  • 1/3 cup of coconut oil (or butter or preferred butter substitute) 

  1. Sift the flours to get the big coarse pieces out, putting the flours into the bowl as you sift. 
  2. Add salt.
  3. Slowly whisk all dry ingredients together. 
  4. Add egg and liquid butter/butter substitute. Mix together at this with your hand. 
  5. Slowly add the milk, mixing it in completely before adding more. The desired consistency is having your fingers pass through it easily, but still able to be shaped into a ball. 
  6. Heat oven to 350° and grease a large flat pan (pan must have a lip). 
  7. Put a little bit of cooking grease/oil on a large (edges need to stick out over pan lip) piece of wax paper, and flatten the dough onto it as evenly as possible. 
  8. Put the wax paper/dough combo in the pan and put pan into the oven for about five minutes. 
  9. Take pan out of oven and very carefully flip over the bread into the pan (the wax paper will not be very hot). Peel off the wax paper, and put back into the oven for another 5-8 minutes. 
  10. Turn off oven and let sit for another 2-3 minutes.
  11. Pull out, cool, cut up and enjoy!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #48

Another Episode of the World Famous GunBlog VarietyCast! (We're surprisingly big in Sweden.)

With the end of The Gun Dudes podcast, we've moved up a rung to be the 47th most popular gun blog in the entire universe!! Sad about the Gun Dudes, though.
  • Erin Palette gives us some good ideas for summertime skills practice.
  • Will the Greek anti-austerity vote have ripple effects across the Eurozone? Nicki Kenyon tells us what she thinks.
  • Special Guest Bob Owens of Bearing Arms tells us his thoughts on the US military moving to hollowpoint bullets.
  • Barron B tells us how to handle hard drives before selling or disposing of computers.
  • And Weer'd fisks the statist tools of "Armed with Reason" (Now full fledged members of the Bloomberg Brownnose Brigade) and their desperate wish for a Federal Permit to Purchase Pistols. 
  • And make sure to stick around to the very end to hear why Sean thinks that those "Bridge Ices Before Roadway" signs are completely stupid.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. And a special thanks to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout to get 10% off. (Shhh, that's a secret. Don't tell everyone! If you did, they might all go out and sign up for the best legal self defense class anywhere, and then how would you win arguments about your state's gun laws?)
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Good Survival Television

& is used with permission.
I've made it plain that I have an absolute loathing for television like Doomsday Preppers (a show I once described as "designed to make everyone involved look bad') which is supposed to be about prepping and survival but is actually a collection of expensive supplies and a lot of drama.

So if Doomsday is bad survival television, surely there's such a thing as good survival television, right?

In theory? Yes.

In practice? No, not really. This is mostly due to the nature of the medium; most television is designed first and foremost as entertainment, with any instructional value second. A true and proper educational program about survival would likely be a DVD (and you can buy those), as the ratings wouldn't be high enough to sustain something like that as a series.

What you can get, however, are some series that aren't terrible. Sometimes you learn useful things from them; sometimes you learn what not to do by watching someone fail. But what's important is that you not confuse misinformation-as-good-TV with actual survival knowledge. Here, then, are some of the shows that I watch that don't suck.

1) Anything by Les Stroud
I've mentioned before that I absolutely adore the Survivorman and I will watch anything he's in (yes, even his Bigfoot investigations -- don't judge me), because the man knows his stuff and hasn't bought into his own hype like Bear Grylls.

He's been going out into the wilderness and surviving with just the gear on his back for about 15 years now, and while the frequency of his shows have slowed with age (don't we all?), they're still excellent.

I like that he not only takes time to explain what he's doing, but he usually focuses his cameras on it so we can see it as well. It's not specifically instructional, but it's the closest you're likely to find on television.

2) Naked and Afraid
This is billed as "the Everest of survival challenges," for pretty obvious reasons. In a re-enactment of Adam and Even exiled from Eden, a man and a woman are put in a harsh environment without clothes, given only two tools -- usually a fire starter and a blade -- and told to survive for 21 days (about the amount of time a human can live without food before starvation claims them).

I like this show because it doesn't candy-coat things: survival can suck.  Contestants on this show are often eaten alive by bugs, or suffer crippling dehydration, or injure themselves.  And despite being trained survivalists, a good percentage of contestants either tap out or are medically disqualified. Even those who survive experience a drastic change in their bodies by losing impressive amounts of weight.

A recent variation. Naked and Afraid XL, takes previous contestants, puts them in groups of three, and has them surviving for 40 days in what is the absolute worst hell-hole I've ever seen. This is what Survivor should have been, in my opinion.

3) Alone
This is the exact opposite of XL in many ways: 10 hunters, woodsmen and survivalists are given a limited selection of gear and told to survive on damp Vancouver Island by themselves (each contestant is separated from others by distance and challenging terrain). In addition to not having anyone to help them or watch their backs, they're on an island full of bears, cougars and wolves -- and no firearms for protection.

I've watched four episodes so far and already 5 people have left: one was charged by a black bear, one was drinking brackish water and suffering hallucinations from too much salt; one lost his ferro rod due to carelessness; and the other two just got scared and went home.

This program is an excellent study on how solitude can break some people and bring out excellence in others, and shows how crippling fear can be.

4) Fat Guys in the Woods
Disclaimer: I only just started watching this show, so it might turn out to be crap. But from just the first episode, it seems pretty good.

The premise is that esteemed survivalist Creek Stewart (the man who sells the Apocaboxes I review every other month) takes three middle-aged, couch-potato type men into the woods for a week of roughing it.

While there isn't a lot of actual learning to be gained from the show (I would prefer more emphasis on the how and why Creek is doing things rather than the emotional/spiritual male-bonding element), it's heartening to see how quickly three deskbound adults with "middle-age spread" take to survival mentality and use the skills they've been taught.

So while it may be short on instruction, it's long on encouragement that, yes, you could do it too. And given that mental fortitude and desire to live are important survival attributes, it's not something to be taken lightly.

These are my four "They don't suck" television recommendations for preppers. And on Sunday, check out my segment on the Gunblog Varietycast for some prepper skills  you can practice while you watch television.

The Fine Print

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