Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween Prepping

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I'm going to be honest with everyone: my heart isn't in today's post.

It's Friday, the day before Halloween. I'm busy trying to get my costume ready, and I imagine a lot folks are in the same situation (or at the very least are just marking time, waiting for the weekend to come).

So I'm going to post some things which are amusing and related to both prepping and Halloween.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Firearms Lubrication

"What oil/grease should I use on my gun?" is one of the classic Let's start an argument* questions: And the answer is "It depends on the job at hand."

Now that I've complicated things from the start, consider that you've got two different qualities to consider: lubrication and corrosion protection.
  • Lubrication is 'makes the working parts work as smoothly as possible.' 
  • Corrosion protection is 'prevents rust'. 
In a way, lubrication is the easier job; it's inside where the moving parts are, somewhat protected from the elements. Corrosion protection has to be on the outside as well, preferably without getting all over everything, and it has to resist falling or rubbing off while the piece is carried around.

The best explanation of the types of lubrication is this article from Grant Cunningham, which I strongly recommend reading, and from which I'll quote:
Lubrication works in a couple of ways: “hydrodynamic” and “boundary”.

Hydrodynamic lubrication is essentially when the parts ride on the film of liquid (or semi-liquid) lubricant; the lubricant fills all of the voids, and the film itself serves as a buffer to keep the surfaces apart.

This works really well, except when a load is applied and the lubricant is squeezed out of it’s space between the surfaces. When that happens, the surfaces grind together and wear. What if we added something to the mix – something that was a bit more “solid” than the lubricant, which wouldn’t be easily squeezed out? Well, that’s just what “boundary” lubrication entails – adding small pieces of more-solid material to serve as a physical separator between the surfaces, keeping them from tearing each other to pieces.

The solids that provide this service are known as “anti-wear” or “extreme pressure” (AW/EP) additives – solids of microscopic size that are mixed into a lubricant, in order to maintain a protective boundary (get it?) under load. “Moly”, a generic term for several molydenum compounds, is one example; others include sulphur compunds, zinc, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, aka ‘teflon’), zinc diakyl dithiophosphate (ZDDP), phosphors, boron, antimony diakyl dithiocarbamate (and it’s derivatives), and many more. Each of these has certain properties that the skilled tribologist (lubrication scientist) will balance to achieve the optimum lubricant for the application.
That said, any lubricant is better than none. If all you've got is motor oil, use it. Bearing grease is too thick for a lot of gun uses, but it does work. Automatic transmission fluid (ATF for short) works, in fact I've been told it's the Army's go-to if  standard CLP is not available.

There are, however, better lubes for different jobs. Something that provides outstanding corrosion protection might not be as good a lube as a dedicated lubricant, and some lubes are better for different jobs. The general rule I've heard is "Grease on sliding parts, oil on rotating parts".  That means:
  • Grease for things like frame and slide rails on pistols.
  • Oil for things like hammer and trigger pivot pins, and link pins on barrels.
Lots of overlap there. 

The thing about oil is that, being thinner, it will work its way into places that grease won't. Those pivot pins, for example: if you take things completely apart you can put grease anywhere, but if you just want to lubricate without complete disassembly, oil can be dropped onto where the hammer and pin meet. Work the parts a few times and the oil will work its way between the parts, and in places like that, it'll stay in place pretty well.

The advantage of grease in some places is it tends to stay in place. Pistol frame and slide rails, for example: most of the time a carried pistol is in a fairly vertical position, which has been known to cause some oils to slowly work their way downward, which could cause most of the rails to wind up with little-to-no lube remaining. Unless it's really hot (which causes it to get really thin), grease won't do that.

And don't forget weather! If you're out in seriously cold conditions, you need something that won't thicken enough to slow down the parts as they move. Similarly, a thick oil or grease that's wonderful on a centerfire might not be what you want on a .22LR. 

Simply put:
  • Use something that has the stuff needed for both hydro and barrier lubrication.  
  • Pick what'll generally stay where it should,
  • and won't get too thick in really cold weather.

I know, I know. "You call all that simple?"

Which one? 
There are more gun oils and greases out there than I care to count, let alone try, every one of them claiming to be the finest thing since Daniel Boone had to render some bear fat down for his flintlock. And generally speaking, they all work -- some better than others, but they all work.

Some have additives to make them a cleaner as well, some have protectant qualities (which is where you get CLP, Cleaner/Lubricant/Protectant). The general rule is "Something that does it all doesn't do all of them as well", but it also means you can use a single stuff for everything. Unless you need a better protectant, or something is really fouled and needs better cleaning stuff, an all-in-one is really handy.

Corrosion Protection
As mentioned earlier, most anything takes care of that inside the mechanism. Something that stays in place on the outside and keeps the wet off is a bit more tricky. This is also why so many firearms makers started going to some type of metal finish that deals with corrision: aluminum AR receivers and handguards and such are anodized to protect them; steel barrels are parkerized or have some other type of coating. 

For protecting plain steel parts, you have multiple options: 
  • Paste wax. I've known people who swear by it. Clean all previous oil or whatever off, apply a thin coat, let it dry completely, repeat a time or two. It makes a thin, clear, fairly hard coating that repels moisture quite well. High-tech it's not, but it works.
  • Eezox is my favorite. It's actually a CLP, but I use it primarily as a protectant. It goes on wet, the carrier evaporates, and a thin coat is left behind. It does clean, it does lube, but I love it for keeping rust away. Put it on properly and it'll last quite a while.
  • Parkerizing is a zinc- or manganese-oxide coating that's bonded to the surface of the steel.  While it provides a little protection on its own, what it really does is provide lots of places for oil or grease to hide and be very hard to get rubbed off. There is a very good piece on the subject here

My "I've tried it" List
Over time I've tried a bunch of different stuff, sometimes because I needed something and it was cheap, sometimes just because I like to try stuff out. So here are some of the things I've tried and liked:

It works pretty well as a CLP, but as noted above I primarily use it as a protectant.

Lubriplate SFL-0 Grease
Straight lubricant. I first heard of this stuff in Cunningham's post and dug around; I could find the SFL-1 on Amazon, but could only get the -0 directly from Lubriplate. These days you can get it at Midway.

I've used it in revolvers, semi-auto pistols, and rifles of various kinds. It stays where you put it, lubes very well, lasts well, and doesn't stink. And that 14oz. can will last the average shooter for years. Probably many years.

Straight lubricant. I've tried both the oil and the grease; both are quite slippery, and I've had zero problems from them. I will warn you, though, that the lubricant in the stuff is black, and if you get it on clothes, well, there will be a stain. Forever.

Joe’s Red Army Tier-One Operator Lube
CLP. This is a mix-it-yourself stuff;  the base recipe makes about a gallon, but you can scale it down for making smaller batches. It seems to work quite well as a cleaner, is suitably slippery as a lube, and internally takes care of corrosion, but isn't something you'd want to wipe all over the exterior (or at least I wouldn't). The nice thing about using it for cleaning is that it's inexpensive enough that you can use a lot of it on patches or swabs and not worry how much it cost.

Tetra Gun Grease
Straight lubricant. Pretty good stuff, but personally I prefer the Lubriplate. I can't prove it, but I think the Lubriplate spreads onto the parts better as they work, and it's a LOT less expensive.

CLP. It's been around a long time. It works.

Lube and protectant. It's an oil, seems to stay in place pretty well, and lubricates quite well. On the exterior it has the standard oil problem of 'rubs off with use'.

This is odd stuff; it was developed in Germany in the early 1900's, and it's still around, which ought to tell you something. It can also be used on wood and leather (which you'd never use this other stuff on), and works quite well as a cleaner. Where this stuff really shines for me is cleaning after corrosive-primed ammunition or black powder: mix it with water (proportions on the can) and it dissolves the trouble-making salts so they wipe away. It's the easiest, and least-stinky, method of cleaning both of these I've ever tried.

Mr. C's Super Sekrit Gun Oil
Straight lubricant. Mr. C sent me a bottle to try several years ago; it's good stuff, passed my "1911 .22 conversion test" with flying colors.

Microlon Gun Juice
Primarily lubricant, but also works as a cleaner. Interesting stuff..  it's a pretty permanent dry coating. I'll let the website instructions cover the the specifics of how to put it on, but it's basically "clean and degrease, heat, coat, let dry, repeat a few times." My son used it on his rifle and a M240 in Iraq and loved it; not only did it slick things up nicely, but when everyone else was cleaning the sludge that the dust and oil produced from their weapons, he could break his down, wipe them off, reassemble, and was done. There's lots of arguments about the stuff, ranging from "It's wonderful!" to "Don't believe it, it's crap!" Read and decide for yourself. I will say that for some purposes it does work, and well.

These are just the ones that I've tried and can actually remember; there are others that go in the category of "Worked, but not better than anything else."

Just remember this basic truth: almost ANY lube is better than none (and WD-40 counts as 'none', no matter what anyone says).

*other all-time favorites being Glock vs. 1911, Mary Ann or Ginger, and "What's the best oil to use in my bike?"

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Prudent Prepping: Son of Bucket

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.

In previous posts I've talked about how I store a bit more than half of my prepping pantry in buckets, making them both portable and an easy way to share food with someone else.

I am back on the topic of buckets because I was sent an email with a link to a site selling a bucket that supposedly contained everything needed for use after a disaster.

No, I'm not linking to the site. While I have no problem with someone making a profit (gasp!) selling supplies to customers who lack either the time or the experience to build their own disaster supplies, the example shown had a retail price of $35 without shipping and, in my opinion, did not do a good job of selecting the right supplies for the price.

Picking the Bucket
This is an exercise for me to see what I can do to fill a 5 gallon pail with goods while keeping under the $35 total. No, I'm not going to detail all the items in the example (that would give away the distributor), but I am going to duplicate some things, eliminate others and expand/improve on what I think should be included in a well thought-out pail. Almost all items listed, excluding food, water and personal care items, are priced from Home Depot. Lowe's or Menards will have similar items and prices, so shop where you want.

I didn't have to go out and buy the contents of the pail; I have most of the things included in the advertised bucket.

The Home Depot 5-gal. Homer BucketBucket and lid, respectively $2.97 and $1.48 from Home Depot. What is there to say? It's a bucket.

One roll of Duct Tape. Every kit needs to have tape and there is nothing better than Duct Tape as a way to hold everything together. Check the Bargain bins and sale fliers. $1.99 for a 20 yard roll.

2 each 2 mil, 9' x 12' plastic drop cloth. This can be used as an emergency shelter, a patch for broken windows, or even fashioned into personal rain gear--  with all of the above done with the help of duct tape. Check for specials here too! 2 pack $3.98.

Dust masks from 3M. I buy these for my personal use by the box;  $21.47  for a box of 20 or $1.07 each. I'll add 4 to this pail, so that's $4.28. These are heavier duty and will filter better than cheaper masks, but still need to be tossed when they get damp from exhaling or become visibly dirty.

2 pair leather palm work gloves. The cheaper the better for these, since there is every possibility you are going to thrash them. Look in the bargain bin for these, too. $1.98 each, so $3.96 for 2 pair.

HDX Disposable Nitrile Cleaning Gloves (10-Count)
Nitrile gloves, because there will be times you want to protect yourself from contaminated water or to keep from touching food during preparation or clean-up. I buy these in boxes of 100 for $13-$15, so you might want to do this also to keep the price low. If you don't need that many, Home Depot has 10 count bags for $2.48, which I'll use here.

One disposable lighter, purchased in a 5 pack from one of the dollar-type stores. $3.98 for five, or $0.80 for one.

One roll of toilet paper, less than $1 since I buy bulk from the warehouse stores. (Editor's note: If you remove the cardboard roll from the center, you can squash this down into a smaller space. If you have the room, add another roll of toilet paper, or a roll of paper towels (or both) using the same technique. 

2 pack of glow sticks, $1.98. These are not a replacement for a flashlight (which you should already have), but to be used as a site or trail marker or emergency signal.

6 ea .5 liter water bottles, $0.27 each so $1.62 total. These were also bought by the case at a warehouse store for the best price possible.

4 ea. 7 oz Spam cans, from a discount grocery outlet. This is a bit smaller than the normal can, so I like it better as a single serving for several people. $1.49 each so $5.96 total.

I'm at $29.88 so far, and this allows us room for a bit of customization to fit your personal needs. Perhaps you have women to plan for and need to add hygiene items, or young children that need baby food or formula. With a bit of care, the target price of $35 can give you a lot more gear than kits you buy. For a budget of $65, you can greatly expand the amount of food and water, or even add a LifeStraw water bottle.

The Takeaway
  • There is nothing wrong with buying 'ready made' items... 
  • ... but a DIY kit can be adjusted to your specific needs 
  • For very little time and expense, you can start prepping! 

  • $35 is not a bad place to start your preps. Shop carefully with your personal needs in mind.

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, October 27, 2015

Bugging In: Skills Roundup

The last things to discuss about bugging in are skills: those you have, and thoseyou learn. Skills are the one prep that can't be taken from you by disaster, economic hardship, or any other environmental concern. Some are free to learn; even more can be learned very inexpensively, and all of them are an investment in your survival and well-being.

Raising your own food is a useful skill even in the best of times. The specifics of what you grow and how will depend on your location and space available; your local nursery, greenhouse, or farm store can provide valuable insight. Even if you're limited on space, square foot gardening techniques will allow you to make the most of the space you do have. If you plant using heirloom seeds, you can use seeds from each year's crop to plant for the next season.

First Aid
In a situation that requires you to hunker down for an extended time, help may be a long time coming. I've mentioned the need for basic medical training before: when you're effectively cut off from help, you are the help. Avail yourself of any first aid training you can get and and make sure your family does the same. And remember Murphy's Law -- if only one person has medical skills, they'll be the one who gets injured.

Handyman/DIY Skills
We've talked about having basic tools around. If you're planning on hunkering down, you need to expand your knowledge of how to use those tools.

For basic home maintenance and repairs, your local hardware store will very likely conduct classes once or twice a month, often for free. They'll cover common home repairs, seasonal maintenance, and other vital things to keep your home running smoothly.

For automotive and equipment repairs, start by reading the owners manual. Haynes and other companies also produce an extensive line of vehicle-specific books, with step-by-step instructions and a wealth of illustrations and pictures. Courses are frequently available at your local trade school or community college, sometimes for a very nominal fee. Practice maintaining your gear yourself in good times, so that you're comfortable running the wrench when you don't have options.

There are many other skills to learn that will make bugging in easier, more comfortable, and more successful. They cannot all possibly be covered in one list, so please comment with other skills that folks should learn, and where they can be learned.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Guest Post: My Truck Kit

by The Wife
Back in August, I was asked by a friend if I would mind helping his wife improve upon an emergency kit for her vehicle. Of course I didn't mind, I replied; I like being helpful. After some back and forth regarding what conditions she expected to be in and what emergencies she wanted to be prepared for, we eventually settled on this. 

This is actually Truck Kit 2.0. My first one just didn't seem complete enough, and I realized that I still had a bit of space available, so I expanded it a bit.

The container is a Gladware food storage container (water- and relatively air-tight) with a 3 cup capacity. It's two inches deep, and six to seven inches on a side (square) depending on where one does the measuring.

(I do not have any first aid items in this kit because I carry a minor-injuries kit with me as a separate unit.)

The contents of the box are:
  • strong magnet [1]
  • 30 feet of 550 para-cord (and twist ties!)
  • quarters (several dollars' worth, but not a full roll)
  • locking, folding box cutter [2]
  • butane lighter
  • antibacterial wipes
  • sterile scalpel blade
  • protein/ energy bar
  • space/ emergency blanket
  • spare key to my house
  • the contents of kit version 1.5 (1.0 was completely rejected):
    • list of critical phone numbers, laminated [3]
    • cash in a variety of denominations [4]
    • sewing kit with extra safety pins
    • Star Flash signal mirror
    • waterproof matches
    • alcohol swabs
    • tampons
    • tweezers
[1] The magnet serves multiple purposes:
  • It holds the kit in place under the seat. (By the way, this size box fits under the seat of every vehicle I've tried. So when I inevitably have to slam on the brakes, the kit doesn't come sliding out to cause additional problems.)
  • It also holds the 1.5 tin, the knife, the quarters and the lighter nicely in place within the box. 
  • If I should I need to leave my car for some reason, I can use it to hold a note to the outside of the car. 
  • If I'm doing an unplanned sewing job, it holds my needle for me when I set it down.
I couldn't tell you where I bought that magnet because I used one that I already had. However, I'm making a comparable kit for my mother, and I found a pair of rectangular bar magnets that will serve the purpose nicely. They are from Home Depot, and it was less than $3 for the pair.

[2] I really like Kobalt knives because the blades are stronger and sharper than most utility knives, and no tools are needed to change the blade on this model.

[3] The list of numbers is in case of a situation when either my battery is dead or my phone has been damaged and I am unable to retrieve numbers from it. I have ~10 numbers on there, including AAA, (and my membership #!) my mechanic, my husband, and a few friends and relatives that I know I can count on to save me in event of a real problem.

[4] I got twenty dollars in smaller bills because there are occasions when cash is either much more convenient or the only option, and I can't always get change (such as tipping someone), so it's nice to have smaller bills so that I don't have to spend more than I need to.

[Not Shown] I put a copy of my house key in there because if I lose my keys, or they get locked in the house, it's much cheaper to get a locksmith to let you into your vehicle that it is to get them to let you into your house. Particularly if you have AAA.

I think the rest of the items are pretty self explanatory. I got items that served multiple purposes whenever possible. This would not be an ideal kit for everyone, but it nicely supplements the things that I either keep in my truck all of the time, or carry everyday. Feel free to add or subtract things to meet your own needs.

The Wife

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #62

Adam and Sean bring you another excellent episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast.
  • Erin Palette talks... Zombies? Seriously? (Yes, seriously.)
  • Nicki Kenyon thinks the U.S. and Russia are headed towards a new Cold War.
  • Our Special Guest this week is Brandon Combs, the President of Firearms Policy Coalition. He tells us about Gavin Newsom's anti-gun ballot initiative in California
  • Do you use Kickstarter? Then Barron B would like you to beware the sucker play.
  • And finally, Weer'd puts Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer in the hot seat with another patented Weer'd Audio Fisk™.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
A special thanks to our sponsor Law of Self Defense. If you haven't taken a legal self defense class from attorney Andrew Branca, sign up now. Andrew will teach you the law of self defense in your state. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout for 10% off.

We also want to thank Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Universal Edibility Test

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
This originally appeared in my BCP segment on last week's Gun Blog Variety Podcast. I thought the information useful enough that who who listened would enjoy a hardcopy version, and this would also make it available for those who do not listen to podcasts.

The Universal Edibility Test is a procedure whereby you can determine whether or not you are allergic to food. While the UET is designed to work on plants and fruits, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work on other foods as well.

There are more than 700 species of poisonous plants within North America. It is nearly impossible to know them all, and for those of us with severe chronic allergies (like myself), several plants which are listed as "safe to eat" may induce an allergic reaction up to anaphylactic shock. Therefore, in any long-term survival situation where food must be foraged, knowing the Universal Edibility Test and being able to perform it is critical knowledge. 

I recommend that all preppers print out this chart, laminate it, and keep it with their bags.
The biggest drawback to this test is that it takes time: there are three steps with a waiting period of 8 hours between them. Fortunately, you aren’t going to starve to death while you’re doing this; it takes a healthy adult about 3 weeks to die of starvation, and if you’re in a hurry you can finish this test within 24 hours. 

However, with proper planning you won't need to do it all in one day. This test can be spread out over three days by performing each step first thing in the morning after waking up. Then, after 8 hours have passed (or less, if you have a negative reaction to the food and realize it's no good for you), you can then eat your known good food for lunch and dinner. 

Of course, this requires you to have a source of known safe food already. Don't start this process when you have nothing safe to eat, or you're going to have a miserable time. 

Before you start the test there are some things to immediately rule out. These are:
  • Anything with thorns, spines, or irritating hairs. 
  • Plants with shiny leaves. 
  • Plants with umbrella-shaped flowers. 
  • Any plant you know to be an irritant, like poison ivy, oak or sumac. 
  • Any plants with white or yellow berries. Don’t just "not eat the berries"; don’t eat anything on the entire plant. 
  • Any plant with a milky or discolored sap. 
  • Anything that smells like almonds that isn’t an almond tree. That’s usually a sign of cyanide within the plant. 
  • Anything which is moldy, rotten, or infested with parasites. The last thing you need in a survival situation is food poisoning or a parasite infection. 
  • Mushrooms. There’s just too much risk for the small calorie reward of eating a mushroom, so unless you are 100% CERTAIN that it’s not poisonous, just leave it alone. 
It's worth noting that these guidelines are just rules of thumb; there may very well be some plants with these characteristics that are safe to eat. However, there are many more with these characteristics which aren’t safe. These fall under the auspices of "In a survival situation, better safe than sorry.”


1) Separate
Some parts of a plant may be edible and other parts not, so you need to separate them into the five main components of leaves, roots, stems, buds and flowers. Inspect each piece and looks for some of the characteristics I mentioned earlier, like parasites or an almond smell. 

2) Contact 
(requires 8 hours of not eating prior to testing)
Take one specific plant part, crush it, and rub it against the skin on the inside of your wrist or elbow, or behind your knee. If it has sap, make sure that gets on your skin too. The idea is that you want to test it on tender skin, not something calloused like your fingers. 

Hold it there for 15 minutes, and then wait for 8 hours, drinking only purified water.

You’re looking for an allergic reaction like itching, burning, redness, bumps, hives, etc. If it’s not good for your skin you’ll have a reaction, and it’s better to have a skin reaction in a survival situation than intestinal distress. 

If there’s no reaction after 8 hours, you can go on to the next step. If you’re hungry and have a source of known good food, go ahead and eat what’s safe and perform the next step the following morning.

3) Prepare the Sample
(requires 8 hours of not eating prior to testing)
If you plan on eating the food cooked, then cook it; if you’re going to eat it raw, then do whatever you’d do to it, like peeling the skin. Just make sure that any food which passes this test is only eaten in this manner; there are plenty of plants which can become toxic after being cooked.

Some suggestions:
  • Ripe fruits are best peeled and eaten raw, but unripe fruits are best cooked. 
  • Anything taken from underground (like roots or tubers) ought to be cooked to kill any bacteria or hidden fungus. 
After the food is prepared to your satisfaction, place it to your lips and hold it for 3 minutes. You’re looking for the same kind of reaction as with the contact test.

If there is no reaction, move immediately to the Taste test. 

4) Taste
Put the food sample on your tongue and hold it there for 15 minutes. If it tastes soapy or bitter, spit it out; you're safer not eating it. 

If you experience any unpleasant sensations like itching, stinging or burning, spit it out and rinse your mouth with fresh water until the sensation ceases. 

5) Chew
Chew it well and hold it in your mouth for another 15 minutes. Don’t swallow anything, not even saliva, during this test! Spit instead.

If nothing happens after 15 minutes (you’re looking for the same unpleasant reactions as earlier), move on to the next step

6) Swallow
Swallow that soggy piece of plant you’ve been keeping in your mouth. Yum yum!

After this comes another 8 hours of waiting, where you don’t eat anything else and only drink purified water. If at any time you have feelings of nausea or stomach pains, induce vomiting. and drink as much water as you possibly can to dilute whatever is reacting inside you.

However, if you feel fine after 8 hours, you can move to the final step.

7) Chow Down
(requires 8 hours of not eating prior to testing)
Prepare a small serving, about a quarter of a cup (60 milliliters) in exactly the same way you did before and eat it. Wait 8 more hours, eating nothing else and drinking only purified water. 

If, after these three 8 hour periods, you have no adverse reactions, then that one specific piece of the plant that you tested is safe to eat. You may now move on to testing other parts of the plant.

Helpful Suggestions
  • Only test plants which are in plentiful supply. You’re basically spending a day testing, so don’t waste that time. 
  • Don’t assume that anything which is edible raw is edible cooked, and vice versa. If you plan to eat them both ways, test them both ways. 
  • Don’t assume that just because an animal can eat it that it’s safe for humans! Just like we can eat chocolate but it’s toxic to dogs, there are many plants which wild animals can eat that are poisonous to us. 
  • Of course, if you can recognize the plant -- like a banana tree or a strawberry bush -- then you can skip most of those steps. I recommend the Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants as a good addition to you bug-out bag, and the Wild Edibles app for your smartphone or survival e-reder. 
  • Finally, know that the Universal Edibility Test isn't 100% proof. There are many plants which can pass this test but present health hazards after long-term consumption

Stay safe out there!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Taking Things

We can't always carry everything we're going to need. The possibility that something unexpected or unplanned will occur is very high, and your kit or bag may not contain what you'll need to get through the unexpected. If you're lucky and know where to look you may be able to find what you need, but is it OK to take it?

Ethics and morals vary between societies, and even within some societies. What is right or wrong can change depending on the current circumstances and the situation you find yourself in. The list below is based on current, American-style ethics and will be in descending order of “rightness” in anything other than life-and-death situations. If your life is on the line, there are no limits to what is “right” to take to sustain life. Taking more than that is frowned upon and may have consequences.

Wildlife and Wild Foods
Trapping, hunting, gathering nuts and berries, and fishing are good examples. Unless your local game warden is off his medications, harvesting food and furs from the environment around you will be the least “wrong” you can do. Private landowners may get protective of “their” wildlife, but public land and waters will are free to use until someone lays claim to them. Seasons and limits are designed to maintain the population of wildlife, but if it's “poaching” or starvation, I'd rather face the ticket for hunting out of season.

In a major catastrophe, the wildlife population may take a serious hit. Until/unless things return to something close to normal, don't expect to see as many edible animals roaming around -- you won't be the only one out there looking for food.

Trash or Debris 
Dumpster diving may be an option if you're looking for materials to make a shelter or fire with. Having walked along many miles of roadways and rail lines, I can attest to the wide variety of things that people will throw out of a moving vehicle. Sorting through trash pits near campsites can often unveil gear that is still usable, if a little stained or worn.

Things Lost or Discarded
Things found along the trail are fair game. If someone ahead of you has lightened their load by tossing out duplicates or unwanted items, there is no ethical problem with picking them up and using them. As an example, fishing line and lures tend to get snagged in trees near shore and most people will just cut the line and leave them hanging. After a bit of work, you could have a way to catch fish or at least a supply of fishing line (which has multiple uses).

Possessions of the Dead
This may sound a bit macabre, but the dead have no need for things. Clothing, food, tools, shelter, weapons, etc. aren't going to do them any good and may keep you alive. As long as there are no heirs or other claimants standing around, I would have no problem sorting through a dead person's belongings to see if there was anything I could use.

However, killing someone just for their possessions is a totally different issue, one that could only be justified in an individual's own mind. There could be times where it would be justified, but unless you're dealing with a Mad Max scenario, they would be rare.

Unguarded Possessions
Once you get to the “Without Rule of Law” stage of TEOTWAWKI, anything not nailed down becomes the property of whoever can carry it away. Before that point, you must be prepared to suffer the consequences of stealing someone's property. Taking refuge in an deserted cabin during a storm may be acceptable to the owner, but taking his car might not. If it is a life-and-death situation, I would prefer to be alive to deal with any possible repercussions.

Secured Possessions
This is theft, pure and simple. Breaking into something for the purpose of taking what is in there is only “right” when death is the only other option. Be aware that people who lock things up are often willing to defend their possessions with deadly force.

There is at least one other category that doesn't fit into the right-or-wrong scheme:
Swallowing your pride and accepting a handout may keep your belly full. It's not as common as it once was, but some people do have a sense of pride that prevents them from taking handouts. If you are such a person, offering a trade of work for food (or shelter, medicine, etc.) is the ethical thing to do.

Be wary of any “gift” that comes with strings attached (shelters that don't allow pets, etc.) because it has changed from charity to barter. If someone wants me to do or not do something in return for their “gift”, I'm going to look very closely at what else they are going to want. Refugee camps are notorious for having one-way doors, once you check in it takes a lot of work to get back out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Buffet Post Part 2: The Expansion

 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.

As a follow-up to last weeks post about my Least Favorite Gloves, I want to show that while they are cut resistant, they will still tear when snagged on a staple or a nail. As you see in the picture below, in about the same area as I cut in the video, my glove has two holes. I don't know if I actually weakened the glove or if it was a coincidence the hole is in the same area, but I think it was weakened. Luckily, I have extra pairs and can get more in a few days.

I snagged it almost in the same location

One thing that was pointed out to me is the Amazon link in the post does not lead to the same model gloves, and I now cannot find the same gloves even listed! The manufacturer may not make them available through Amazon regularly, I don't know. More research is necessary.

Mentioned in passing in the glove portion of the post was that I use lotion to keep my hands from drying out due to sweat and washing. It isn't really lotion; it's actually Jojoba Oil from Trader Joe's. I like to use it since there is no scent, it absorbs fairly well and a small amount goes a long way. I have used this bottle for about a year and it's down about 1/2". One drop is all I use to completely cover my hands up past my wrists, and it rubs in quickly. 

Found in the Personal Care
section at Trader Joe's.
Another reason for this purchase is the easy use as an add-on fire starter accelerant. I have seen YouTube videos of people stuffing Vaselene-soaked cotton balls into straws for use as fire starters. With this oil I can soak almost anything flammable and get it to ignite with either matches or a magnesium block.

When I bought this it was $7.95, which sounds expensive but if you look at the amount used per day, I expect this bottle to be damaged and needing to be tossed out before I use it up!

One Caution: this bottle uses a flip-up top which might leak in certain situations. My bottle is kept by itself inside a heavy duty zip lock bag in my lunch box. At one time I kept it in a bag with some first aid items, which turned out to be a bad idea when the bottle leaked and ruined the other items.

The Takeaway
  • Anything that you use needs to be maintained, and items that are used daily need to have backups for when the inevitable (expected or not) happens. 
  • Dual use items are always best. 
  • Simple solutions to complex problems are my favorite.
    • Cut resistant gloves: Not available through Amazon. Sorry!
    • Hand lotion/fire starter oil: Approx. $7.95 from Trader Joe's.

      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, October 20, 2015

      Bugging In: Security

      So, you've acquired quite a collection of supplies by now, and you've even found a way to keep the lights on. However, if you don't have a way to protect all of your stuff, you don't really own it. As a friend of mine is known to say "If you have 10,000 gallons of potable water, and I have an AK-47, then I have 10,000 gallons of potable water and an AK-47."

      Security is a matter of compromises and trade-offs, all with a single goal in mind: buying time. Whether you use this time to get help, get positioned, or get out is entirely dependent on the situation at the time, but any action you take will need that time.

      The two easiest ways to buy time are being alerted to danger earlier and slowing that danger down. Early alert is the realm of security systems, alarms, and other devices, while slowing threats down falls to "hardening" your home and property. These take place at a couple areas of your property and buildings.

      Perimeter Security
      Good fences are said to make good neighbors. They also help to keep the less neighborly out of your property and out of threat range. A fence designed for security purposes needs to be tall enough to be hard to climb, and stout enough to prevent forced access. Eight foot tall chain link works well, as does 6-8' wood or vinyl slat fencing on smaller properties. Use strong, lockable gates at any access points.

      Motion sensors are handy for providing advance notice. They can be placed on any access point and can provide several methods of alert. Alerts can be as basic as a simple doorbell chime, or as advanced as activating a camera and beyond. The doorbell chime alert is actually not uncommon in rural farm areas, and is quite inexpensive and easy to set up.

      Homes and Outbuildings
      This side of the equation is more about hardening and less about notice. Door and window alarms still play a vital role, but when intruders are that close, alerts can only buy you so much time. Hardening doors, windows, and other weak points will grant you time that you would otherwise not have, and may entirely deter a less-determined intruder.

      Where possible, exterior doors should be metal or solid wood. Large glass panes are very pretty, but present a security nightmare. A small peep hole in the door allows you to see folks while maintaining a hardened door between you. 

      Good locks are key to keeping the uninvited out, but locks are only as good as the jamb they're securing. Step one is to get a good deadbolt, and step two is to reinforce the jamb itself. A deadbolt is a mighty latch, but if your jamb is soft enough that it can be kicked in, the bolt does you no good.

      Windows should have latches or other stops, and factory installed spring-loaded catches are a nice feature on many new window installations. If your windows are older, a simple piece of doweling -- cut roughly to the length of the track your window slides along -- works wonders to keep the pane from being forced open. This same method is ideal for sliding glass doors.

      Solid, all-metal padlocks are the tried-and-true method of securing outbuildings, and for good reason: they're inexpensive and they're moderately difficult to defeat. Unless someone is a rather determined or motivated thief, your things will still be there in the morning.

      As stated above, alarms on the house or outbuildings are still a useful thing. This is a good starting point, and is expandable to cover all your doors, windows, and other access points. It's also compatible with a siren, if you desire that feature.

      A Note on Security "Systems"
      A fully integrated, monitored security system (ADT, etc.) is a very nice thing to have, and provides many benefits. However, they can be very expensive, both in initial cost and monitoring fees. Many of the same benefits can be derived from a user-installed system and at a far lower cost. None of the security system references in this piece call for a monitored system, and honestly would likely not draw much benefit from the added expense.

      Be aware, be warned, and be safe.


      Monday, October 19, 2015

      Adding Some Spice to Your Life

      When talking about Prepper Pantries, there are a few things that most of us tend to either ignore or forget. The most important thing that everyone in the Western world tends to take for granted is something that's so common in our grocery store and regular pantry, and so easy to come by these days, that we forget that its more than simply a kitchen convenience: SALT.

      We don't generally stop to consider that salt does more than just make our food taste good. It provides certain critically necessary minerals in our daily diet, as well. Without it, we will die. With too much of it, we do ourselves damage as well -- especially with our increasingly sedimentary lifestyles here in the U.S. -- but a complete lack of salt will kill us in particularly unpleasant manners.

      Salt is so important to maintaining our health that entire economies rose and fell based on salt trade routes throughout the ages. It was worth its weight in gold: spice caravans were raided not simply for the riches that were represented by exotic, rare spices grown only in certain climates, but more commonly to steal the very necessary salt that was always part of trade.

      Salt has been important enough in a historical sense that it is only when we reach the late 18th to early 19th century, with the industrial revolution and rapid transportation of goods on a global scale, that salt started being more commonly used in every day cooking and kept as a matter of routine out on the dinner table.

      Up until that point, spices were carefully hoarded in the kitchen, to be used with extreme parsimony during cooking. Setting it out on the table for the use of high ranking or extremely important guests was done not simply to honor those guests as an act of high hospitality, but also to show off that you had sufficient wealth that you could afford to put something as critical as salt, and as difficult to come by and expensive as pepper, out on the table for lavish use. Extravagant salt and pepper cellars set out on the table during dinner were the Renaissance equivalent of driving a Lamborghini today.

      Salt, pepper, and a few other commonly used spices can go a long way towards making even the most unappetizing dreck a little easier to swallow when you're out camping or en route to your bug out location. When you go out to grab a quick bite of something at a fast food place, do yourself a giant favor and grab a few extra packets of salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, honey, or other tiny condiments. Stash them in a baggie and toss them into the bottom of your bug out bag. You'll thank yourself later for having done so.

      Similarly, do yourself a favor and start stocking up on salt now, as part of your Prepper's Pantry, by spending an extra $2 a month on a couple of standard kitchen canisters full of salt that you would normally pick up only when you're about to run out. If things ever go completely haywire and society collapses, having a large stash of salt on hand serves several purposes:
      1. It's critical to maintaining your own health, when used in moderation. 
      2. It makes your food more appealing - you'll be amazed at how much better your outlook is if you aren't dreading fueling your body. 
      3. It becomes a good way to preserve your food (those rabbits, fish, etc that you're trapping for protein) so that it doesn't spoil before you're through the winter. 
      4. It's a great trade commodity, because it will be needed by everyone and they won't think of it until its critical.
      If you're fortunate enough to live near an ocean, or where there are salt flats, then harvesting salt for long term survival and trade goods is easy enough to learn. If you're like myself, and live more than a day's drive from the ocean during normal times, then it becomes a matter of life and death to have it stocked up and have a plan in place of how to acquire more when it eventually runs out.

      Don't wait until the SHTF to start thinking about salt!

      Gun Blog Variety Podcast #61

      Wow, so many great segments this episode that Adam and Sean had to keep their segments snappy!
      • Erin Palette, suffering from seasonal allergies, tells us how to determine if that promising food source you're hoping to save you from starvation in the woods is safe to eat or if you'll end up allergic to it.
      • It was the week of the first Democrat debate and Nicki Kenyon has a few things to say about their foreign policy pronouncements.
      • Our Special Guest this week is Benjamin Turner of the Personal Defense Talk podcast. Ben tells us about the ALICE program of school safety
      • Barron B reprises his segment on password managers. He talked about it back in the first few episodes, but with the hack of LastPass, we thought he should talk about them again.
      • And if you've paid any attention to gun news this week, you know that the contestants in the Democrat Debate played a game of "who can hate on peaceable gun owners the most." You know that we couldn't pass that up. It's time for another patented Weer'd Audio Fisk!

      Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Don't forget to share with a friend. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!
      Listen to the podcast here.
      Show notes may be found here.
      A special thanks to our sponsor Law of Self Defense. If you haven't taken a legal self defense class from attorney Andrew Branca, sign up now. Andrew will teach you the law of self defense in your state. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout for 10% off.

      Friday, October 16, 2015

      Apocabox Unboxing #8

      Not actually Erin.
      & is used with permission.
      Once again, The Curse of the Apocabox continues to plague me. One of these days I'm going to get a video uploaded and edited on time instead of several hours past my desired posting time.

      Good news, though: in contrast to August's box, this one is pretty darn spiffy and has lots of neat things within it.

      Please watch the video and leave me a comment about it either here, on my personal blog, or on my YouTube channel.

      Pictures of this month's contents may be found here.

      Expanding the Pantry Menu: Saving Freezer Burnt Meat

      I've never really tried to save freezer burnt meat per se; it usually just got cooked and anyone who wanted to complain went hungry. (That's from the days when ramen was a daily meal for us.)

      Gearing up for our move to Arizona, we put a ban on eating out and started working our way through our freezer. Hiding in the back was a package of pork loins that I know has been in there since I moved in with DR back in September 2013... how long before that, I have no idea. Two of the pieces showed very clear marks of freezer burn.

      I can't stand throwing out food, but those two pieces I seriously considered throwing away. I can't stand pork outside of bacon and sausage -- it's always tasted bland to me and I like red meat much better. However, these needed to be used up. The question was, "How?"

      So I sat, crocheting and pondering. Crocheting keeps the hands busy but not the mind, and something finally popped up in my head that was from an older "How To Be a Good Housewife" book I had read for snorts and guffaws several years ago. Every old hand in a kitchen has her tricks and techniques, and this book had been written back when freezer burned meat was only just starting to become a concern. The recipe recommended a soak in seasonings and vinegar for about a day or two, and then popping the meat into a crock pot for a slow cook.

      Well, why not try it? All the pieces still had some decent looking fat on them, so I soaked them for a day in a marinade of garlic, sage, thyme, dried & ground limes (1-2 tsp each) in 1.5 tbsp of red wine vinegar.

      The next day I laid three pork loins out on the bottom of a crock pot put a can of beans and tomatoes in the middle, then put the last three on top. I didn't drain the cans, but instead used them for the liquid I would need in the crock pot -- which also cut down on the amount of salt I needed to add later.

      I cooked the meat on high for about two hours, before turning it down to low heat for 24 hours and then I'm back to plotting doom and destruction via yarn while dealing with the fact the house smells great!

      When it comes time to eat, I boiled up a cup of rice to supplement the meal. The beans and tomatoes went on top of that.

      So the major questions are:
      • Did it work? Yes.
      • Did it taste good? Yes.
      • Did it keep food from going to waste? Sadly, no. It ended up being enough for four or five people and for them to have seconds, so some of it did go to waste.

      In the time I started writing this piece, we've since moved to Arizona and been here almost two weeks. It's great here! While we didn't have to throw away a lot of food, we did hand a large chunk of the freezer off to our neighbors rather than let it go to waste. 

      Thursday, October 15, 2015


      Preppers aren't the only ones impacted by disasters and emergencies. There are several types of almost-parasitic creatures that live near or with us that will also have their lives disrupted in the event of an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, or other major catastrophe. When their normal living quarters are destroyed, or their food supply is disrupted, they can and will look for other sources. Being mobile and reproducing rapidly, they spread to wherever they can find food and a place to live.

      Of course I'm thinking of rodents, not the two-legged parasites that react in many of the same ways. When something as simple as construction work can cause mice and rats to vacate a building and look for new homes, imagine what a major disaster will do. We've all heard the phrase "rats leaving a sinking ship", and it is a real phenomenon; they flee burning buildings as well.

      Rats and mice are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat whatever they can find. If you can eat it, so can they; in developing countries where construction and sanitation standards are not as strictly enforced, rodents can destroy or contaminate up to 25% of every harvest. That's not counting the documented "swarming" of rats that can entirely destroy crops in a matter of days.

      Rodents have front teeth that grow as long as they are alive, which is why they are constantly chewing on things. If they don't chew and wear down their teeth, the teeth will grow through their skulls and kill them. Rats in particular can chew through anything, given enough time. And I mean anything: concrete, lead, steel, glass, and plastics are not enough to keep them out if they are hungry or just need to chew.

      Mice and rats also have very flexible skeletons. A fully-grown rat can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter and a mouse through one the size of a dime. Openings for pipes and wires are the most common entry for rodents into a house. Keep things sealed up and make sure your wall openings are as tight as possible.

      Rodents are very hard to get rid of once they have infested an area. There are a few islands that have been cleared of rats (brought in on visiting ships hundreds of years ago), but it is an expensive and time-consuming process. Some areas of the Arctic and all of Antarctica are rat-free only because the conditions are so severe that they can't live there (nor can much of anything else).

      Controlling a rodent population is possible. Proper sanitation and storage procedures can keep them out of certain areas, and poisons, traps, and predators work after they've moved in.

      Sanitation and Storage
      • Mice are very near-sighted, which is why they tend to stay close to walls. They also leak urine as they run around, leaving a scent trail for other mice. Now you have another reason to scrub the floor.
      • Food must be kept cleaned up to eliminate easy meals that will keep them coming back for more. Bulk storage in particular gets messy when you're transferring a portion to a smaller container for use. Crumbs and kernels of grain on the floor may not look like much to a 200# adult human, but to a mouse they're a full pantry.
      • Storage requirements are simple: Keep everything in the best container you can afford until you need it. Those quaint bread boxes and pie safes that your grandma had in her kitchen? Those were there for a reason. Keeping everything covered kept the bugs and rodents out of it.
      • Keeping your area clear of debris removes material that rodents can use to make nests. Paper and cloth need to be kept off of the floor and neatly stacked. Never store anything leaned against the side of a building, because that creates pathways and nesting areas for them.

      • Poisons: Most rodent poisons are anti-coagulants. This class of drug is very hard to develop an immunity to, but you'll still have to change the active ingredient once in a while. Warfarin used to be the most commonly used blood thinner, but the brown rat (Norway rat) has become resistant in some areas. Fumigation is an option, but is not something for the DIY crowd; the chemicals are extremely hard to obtain without the proper paperwork, and they're not very forgiving of mistakes since they'll kill anything that breathes. 
      • Traps: The standard mouse trap still works after many years. Cheap, simple, and useful for other purposes, everyone should have a few set aside. The more elaborate traps work as well, but I'm a fan of the KISS principle. 
      • Predators: Cats and small dogs have hunted rodents for as long as they've both been around. Most of the smaller Terrier breeds of dogs are excellent rat hunters and any cat will hunt mice if they're hungry enough. That's the trick with cats-- keep them hungry and they'll hunt for their own food. Owls and hawks also find rodents quite tasty, but they're a bit harder to train and care for. Do what you can to foster their choosing to live near you and they'll help keep the rodent population down.

        Just having things isn't enough; you also need a plan on how to keep them. Rodents and other vermin are not as common in modern society as they were a hundred years ago, but if things start to break down, their rapid breeding will put them back to where they were within a few months. 

        Something for you to think about, in case it had never crossed your mind.

        The Fine Print

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