Monday, April 30, 2018

Rechargeable AA & AAA Batteries for Preppers

Preppers need a lot of batteries, because all sorts of everyday tools and emergency devices use them.

There are some devices (like cell phones, tablets, watches or similar) that typically have built-in batteries, and recharging them during an emergency is difficult if not impossible. However, there are many other devices (such as flashlights, certain portable cell phone chargers, many handheld radios, etc) that run off of AA or AAA batteries and will almost certainly be used up during the course of a disaster and will need recharging. Fortunately, those kinds of batteries are easy to acquire, inexpensive, and are relatively power dense.

Rechargeable vs. Traditional
There are a lot of arguments to be made for rechargeable batteries, such as costing less per use than traditional batteries or the ecological difficulty in disposal of toxic alkalines, but for a prepper their largest advantage is that they can be potentially be recharged in the field. If you can recharge a battery, you don’t have to carry as many spares, saving weight and volume. Battery chargers are cheap these days, and don’t take a lot of space, which means a lot of space and weight saving if you're out in the field for an extended period of time.

An average AA alkaline battery weighs 23 grams, which doesn’t sound like much until you realize that it can take four or more of them for a single cell phone or tablet charge, and that weight adds up quickly when toting around a bunch of them.

Power density is also an important factor. Even if you are expecting to use these batteries only once, modern rechargeable batteries are actually slightly more dense than modern alkaline on a per-battery basis.

Disposable batteries do have one advantage, though: if you have to hand one to someone, you don’t have to worry about getting it back. If you are likely to need to loan batteries out, disposables make more sense in that situation.

How to Recharge Them
I recommend the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Solar Recharging Kit with Nomad 7 Plus Solar Panel. At 544 grams (1.2 pounds), it's a lightweight and portable way to keep the lights on and your tools running. The solar panels allow you to recharge AA or AAA batteries in the field, or you can just plug the charger into a USB port at home for rapid charging. What's more, you can also recharge devices with built-in batteries (like cell phones and tablets) by plugging the Guide 10 into them.

Good luck, and don’t forget to practice.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Fire Starter Comparison: Cotton Balls vs. Dryer Lint

Last week we had comments talking about using dryer lint as opposed to cotton balls to dip into our petroleum jelly as a firestarter.

So this week I'm comparing the two of them in "laboratory conditions", and then next week I'll test them in the field with little hands using flint and steel.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Fire Carriers

One of the most common subjects in any prepper discussion is fire and how to start one. We've covered various methods of building and starting fires over the years, so I thought it might be time to take a step sideways and talk about carrying your fire with you.

A long time ago, in a place not too far away, I was a Boy Scout. 40-50 years ago, a lot of the lore and training of the Boy Scouts was based on American Indian traditions and practices because our leaders were trying to teach us wilderness skills and the local Indian tribes had worked out ways to deal with the same weather, animals, and terrain that we would be encountering. I live in the area the various Sioux tribes wandered, so we learned some of the tricks that they used.

Fire Horns
A nomadic people, the Sioux would “bug out” whenever they needed to: following the buffalo herds, migrating with the seasons, looking for fresh water, and territorial disputes were some of the reasons for moving. They would strike camp, pack up the belongings they wanted/needed, and travel to their destination.

One of the first things done at a new location was to light the community fire. Having a community fire offered everyone a quick and reliable way to start their own personal fires for heating and cooking. The communal (or council) fire was also a meeting place for the leaders of the tribe, and many cultures share the tradition of discussion around a camp fire as a method of bonding as a community and working out problems.

Since friction fires and flint and steel are time consuming ways to start a fire, and they didn't have access to matches, lighters, magnifying lenses, or any of the modern ways to start a fire, they used a “fire horn” to carry a burning ember from the last fire at the previous camp to the new location. A fire horn was a buffalo horn packed with soft punky wood that would smolder rather than burn, and covered with a loose-fitting cap to allow some air flow. A hot ember placed in the fire horn could be carried for up to a week and still be hot enough to start a fire. This was much quicker than starting from scratch!

Photo credit:

Making and Using a Fire Carrier
Since there are very few buffalo horns to be found and a lot of young Scouts, we used soup or bean cans to make our fire-horns.
  1. When opening the can, leave a bit less than a quarter of the lid attached to the rim. This provides a cover that can be opened or closed as needed to provide air to the embers, and it also won't get lost.
  2. Use a screwdriver or awl to punch holes around the top edge for the carrying strap, and punch a few holes around the bottom of the can to let air in.
  3. We used leather lacing for a carry strap, but any form of cordage will work. 550 cord seems to be the “tactical” solution for everything, and it will work just fine.
  4. Make your carrying strap long enough that the fire-horn is free to swing from your belt or shoulder as you walk. This makes sure that fresh air get into the can and sustains the glowing embers, and having a longer strap also keeps a potentially hot metal can away from your body. It should be long enough to swing it around your head when you're trying to revive the ember.
  5. Fill the can about ¾ full of soft punky wood. Look for a tree that has been down long enough that it has started to rot; you want small chunks of almost rotted wood about the size of your thumb that should be easy to crush with your hand but not turn to dust when you pick them up. The best choices will be from the trunk or large branches; rotted heartwood works better than thin branches due to its denser structure.
  6. Use a stick to pull a hot ember out of your existing campfire. You're looking for one that will fit into the can without touching the sides. Break it up until you get the right size.
  7. Use your stick to scrape the ember into the can, or use two sticks like chopsticks to pick it up and place it into the center of the punky wood.
  8. Close the lid and once you've made sure the old fire is completely out (listen to Smokey Bear, folks),  you're ready to travel.

Starting a Fire from a Carrier
We experimented (played) with our fire horns a lot. Frequent checking of the hot ember to make sure it was still burning was common, and if it showed signs of dying it could be revived by swinging the can around by the strap. This forced air through the holes and partially open lid, which helped keep the embers going. I think the longest we ever used one was three days, but that was due to the length of the campout.
  1. Once you get to your new camp, find fuel for your fire and a good source of tinder. Bird's nests work great as tinder, but a large double handful of dry grass is just as good.
  2. Set up your fire like you normally would, leaving a hole on one side of the bottom for the tinder.
  3. Open the lid of your can (use a stick or knife if it's hot) and carefully dump the hot ember into your pile of tinder.
  4. Pick up the pile and gently blow through the pile to get air to the ember. Once the tinder starts to burn, quickly place it into the prepared stack of fuel and work on getting a real fire going.
  5. Once you have your new fire going, clean out the fire horn. There may be small, smoldering embers in the bottom that will keep burning for days, so unless you're planning on moving again soon, dump it out to prevent accidents.

Not everything has to be new and improved! Our ancestors lived through a lot of things we don't normally see, and they figured out ways to get by. Most of the disasters we prepare for are disruptions of our modern lives, setting us back to a time before electricity and clean water were common, but people lived that way for centuries and I think we can learn some of their tricks in case we ever have to play by their rules. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Prudent Prepping: Prepping For the Inevitable Big One

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

As if I needed a wake-up call to get ready for what is coming, the government has sent out a full-color animation of the BIG ONE. Well, maybe not the REALLY Big One, but certainly big enough and close enough to really ruin the day for approximately 2 million people.

This information come from the United States Geological Survey, and this video shows a view of the expected damage zones of an earthquake on the Hayward Fault. I looked and the fault line stretches from San Jose, through Oakland and almost to Napa.

This information is very similar to that from a site I wrote about in July 2016, from the San Francisco Disaster Preparedness Office, but that was only text; video really brings home what could happen.

Here is an animation of what will happen near me (there are other animations on the USGS Hayward Fault page):

Yes,  I live between Downtown (Concord) and Walnut Creek, about 20 miles east of the actual fault. I do expect major damage to roads, freeways and older buildings, like the 60 year-old house I live in.

While the USGS didn't release this scenario to create fear but rather to show  what could happen when the Hayward fault quakes, that video by dozens of experts is eye-opening and frankly a bit frightening. It has built a fire under several of my friends to stock up, and I'm hoping that one or two more will start seriously preparing for what WILL happen, even if the exact date is unknown.

What To Do
I am planning to increase my stored food and water by 50% before the end of the year.

Here are other things you can do:
  • Read the GHB (Get Home Bag) posts on this blog. Look at what everyone has posted, especially our authors that live in a similar climate to yours. 
  • If you are at any level of prepping, please share Erin's post on how to have a calm talk on prepping with your non-prepping friends and family!
  • Make sure you have your supplies safely stored if you are away, as Lokidude discusses here
  • Use your gear to keep up on what you know, like Chaplain Tim explains here
  • Whether Bugging In or Out, be certain everyone in your group/family/tribe knows what is expected of them, knows what to do in an emergency, and has the necessary gear and has confidence in each other to do the right things. 

The Recap
Even though my planned-for disaster happens infrequently and yours may be more common, we all need to step up to take care of those around us and spread the word on how simple, easy and Blue Collar it is to be prepared.

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Slingshots: Not Just Child's Play

Erin mentioned yesterday that she has added a slingshot to her prep gear, but I've had one in my gear for years. They're very handy for small game, birds, and varmint control, especially in areas where a gun cannot be fired.

While the old Dennis the Menace-style slingshot still exists and functions well, I am a fan of the "wrist rocket" style of slingshot because the integrated wrist brace stabilizes the slingshot, allowing for a full-power pull with less difficulty in the same way that a  compound bow is easier to draw than a longbow. I can hold my Marksman Laserhawk at full draw long enough to acquire a sure aim and wait for an ideal shot, bu doing the same with Dennis the Menace is far more difficult to do.

"Dennis" and his cohorts do have one huge advantage, though: while the wrist rocket requires specialized surgical tubing bands, the traditional slingshot can be run on a wide variety of band types, including some you can create at home. I'll address the hows and whys of that in a future article.

Why a Slingshot?
The two huge benefits of a slingshot are its silent nature and the ability to use and reuse virtually anything as ammunition. Being silent means you can practice in your basement, garage, or backyard with minimal setup and virtually no concern about crossing the neighbors or Johnny Law. This is good, because slingshots require a fair bit of practice to achieve and maintain a high level of accuracy.

The wide variety of ammunition a slingshot can eat means that they can run indefinitely; you only need to pick up small stones from the ground to have a pocket full of ammunition. However, stones are usually the worst choice for ammunition, useful mainly for plinking and not serious work; better ammo flies straighter, more consistently, and hits harder.
  • Erin's chalk marking ammo is a great practice tool, and well worth the investment. 
  • For hunting work, I like either 1/4" steel balls, or common 1/8 oz split shot fishing weights. Larger steel balls are available for very powerful slingshots, but I prefer the increased velocity of the smaller ammunition. 
  • For chasing off pests, 3/8" clay balls impart a sting with reduced penetration and without leaving a mess behind.
In short, slingshots are wonderful, handy tools that are easily worth the space they take in your kit.

Next week I'll demonstrate the physical act of shooting a slingshot.


Monday, April 23, 2018

Product Review: Champion Traps and Targets .22 Bullet Trap

& is used with permission.
I was recently given a SimpleShot Torque slingshot as a survival tool. I was intrigued by the notion of having a compact, low-tech means of gathering food for a bug-out bag, so I picked up a Marksman Laserhawk at my local Walmart so I could compare the two.

Before I could test them, though, I needed a proper backstop. As a responsible gun owner I know that I am responsible for every bullet that I fire, and that applies to shot launched from a sling as well. Ideally, I wanted a backstop that would not only stop launched stop, but also hold a target.

Enter the .22 Bullet Trap by Champion. I bought this last year when I was given a .177 air gun and needed a backstop for it, as well. Due to the exceptionally high pressures that my air gun produced, it would end up shooting through all of the air gun traps I could find, so I ended up buying a trap that was robust enough for a .22LR bullet. My thinking was "If it will stop a .22 caliber propelled by gunpowder, it will definitely stop a .177 caliber pellet propelled by air."

It did, and quite handily at that; the .177 projectiles hit the trap and disintegrated, the pieces falling into a catch-basin at the bottom. I haven't yet shot it with a .22LR (the neighbors would object to the noise and it would violate local ordinances, and the local range won't let me shoot at anything other than paper), but as you can imagine, it is both well-suited and ridiculously overbuilt for catching slung shot.

I'm still learning how to use my slingshots*, so a review of them will have to wait, but I am very pleased with my Champion trap.
  • It's solidly built, as you would expect from a steel trap meant to catch bullets. 
  • It comes with a clip to hold paper targets.
  • The catch-basin makes cleanup a breeze and prevents lead pollution. 
  • The angle of the trap deflects any ricochets downward. All airgun pellets disintegrated, but the steel shot I was using would sometimes bounce off the back plate and come to rest an inch or two in front of the trap. 

  • It's a hefty 22 pounds, as you would expect from a steel trap meant to catch bullets. 
  • It's welded steel, so it can't fold up for storage. Once you buy it, you're stuck with a roughly cubic foot of steel trap. 
  • Although it comes with a protective coating, even .177 pellets at 30 feet removed the paint where they hit. Be wary of rust in the target area if you leave it outside!
  • It's not cheap. Retail is $90ish; Amazon has it for $70 and free shipping for Prime members. 

My Rating: A+
Yes, it's hefty. Yes, it's large. Yes, it's expensive. But despite all that, I feel that this product is a tremendous value for your money, because if you treat it right it will last a very long time, and you can use it for air rifle and slingshot practice as well as .22 shooting.

*One Last Thing...
If you do decide to get a slingshot, it can often be difficult to find the point of impact if you miss the target completely. If you find this is the case, pick up a container of Powder Balls. For $10 you get a bottle of 50 balls that explode in a cloud of chalk-like dust when you hit. These are a great way of learning your slingshot's elevation and windage (especially if you are new to the hobby and worried about hitting your expensive slingshot in the fork with a steel ball), or as a way for children to learn marksmanship without worrying if they will injure themselves or others. Plus, they're biodegradable!

If you find yourself using a lot of these, then buy a 430-count container for $29.

Happy slinging!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Making Toilet Paper Firestarters

As I have said before, getting loved ones into prepping should fun and rewarding.

Making fire starters with petroleum jelly is easy, useful, and fun for kids (and some adults).

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Dental Emergencies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Prudent Prepping: First Aid Every Day Carry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Simplest Shepard's Pie Recipe Ever!

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

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

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

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

Bon appetite! 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Hot Sauce as an EDC Item

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck, and don’t forget to practice.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Your Pets After Your Death

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

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

So meet Daisy, the newest member of our family.

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

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

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

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

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

Daisy with her new nametag and scarf. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Fun Projects to Get Them Into Prepping

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

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Age: Not Something I Was Fully Prepared For

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Prudent Prepping: Lansky Deluxe 5-Stone Sharpening System

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

I've had different blade sharpening tools: large stones, diamond systems, pocket stones, and other weird ways to put an edge or maintain one on a knife. While I am able to keep a knife sharp, the feeling I had was that I could do better.

Staying Sharp

The Lansky Deluxe is one of several brands of guide rod sharpening systems, but is the only one that had friends saying "Dude! You don't have a Lansky set?" until I caved in and bought it.

They were right. This is better. Much, much better.

From Lansky's web site:
Serrated Medium Hone: for sharpening serrations
Coarse Red Hone: (120 grit) for edge reconditioning
Medium Green Hone: (280 grit) for sharpening and less frequent touch-ups
Fine Blue Hone: (600 grit) for most frequent touch-ups to keep your blade paper-slicing sharp
Ultra-Fine Ceramic Yellow Hone: (1000 grit) for polishing the edge for a razor sharp edge
Honing Oil: Specially Formulated for sharpening
Easy to use, multi-angle clamp: to hold the blade securely
Guide Rods: One for every Hone

Setup and Use
I don't know what to say other than this was about as simple to setup and use as anything I have ever used. The directions are available in several languages, the illustrations are clear and easy to understand, and any tweaking to the tools are simple.

Guide Rod and Stone
The instructions say to install the guide rod into the stone as shown, placing both on a flat surface and checking to see if stone and rod are flat to the table. All the rods in my kit were a little off and needed to be bent down to be even with the stone. After doing that, tighten the thumb screw enough to hold the rod steady and you are ready to go!

Guide Rod

Blade Holder System
There are two slightly different screws used in the clamp for the final tightening. If you look at the picture and compare it to the photo up top, you can see a screw with a red cap is not used here. If the taller red screw interferes with the guide rods, there is a shorter screw provided in the kit! It's very good for Lansky to cover our options like this from the start.

Blade Clamp

Again from Lansky:
"The knife clamp included in the sharpening system holds the knife steady, and holds the angle guide static and firm, so that the user can achieve the desired angle with every stroke of the sharpener. The Extra-Coarse to Ultra-Fine hones provide an excellent range of grits for complete edge care and maintenance. The USA made Lansky system is perfect for outdoor sporting knives, kitchen knives or workshop knives, and offers the widest range of accessories available."
I wanted to see how well it did on a thicker and odd blade shape, so I used my Shadow Tech Cub. The clamp worked very well, considering the blade spine has a very steep taper from the hilt to the point. Even after tightening the clamp more than necessary, it did not mar the factory-applied pebble powder coat finish.

My goal was to duplicate the factory grind angle as close as possible so I didn't spend all day removing steel or re-shaping the blade, so I used a Sharpie on the sides of the blade. After several trial swipes of the medium stone, I found the closest angle to the original.

System in Use

I don't have a camera capable of close-up pictures, but after 15 strokes from the hilt to the point with the #280 grit, I had a sharper knife than I had using my diamond pad. 10 more with the #600 grit and it was super sharp!

I really am surprised my friends have not bashed me before now for not having one of the easiest sharpening tools ever!

The Takeaway
  • Don't neglect to mention things that 'everyone knows about' to all your friends, because somebody might not be in that 'everyone' group.

The Recap
  • One Lansky Deluxe kit purchased from Amazon: $39.95 with Prime.

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

App Review: the Offline Survival Manual

I'm not normally known as the tech guy around here, but I do know my way around electronic hardware. We've talked about preparedness apps and books before, and now I want to look at one I've been poking around at for a couple months: the Offline Survival Manual.

This app is based upon the Army FM 3-05.70 Field Manual. It formats the manual in a searchable wiki design, with a sidebar that lets you navigate to information by topic. The wiki format also makes it easy to update the data as new techniques or topics become relevant. Each segment contains a header that introduces the topic and its relevance with a bit of background. Since it is based on an Army manual, most of the data is about wilderness survival but the basic principles apply on a wider scale.

The format and color palette are clean and streamlined, and the uncluttered look and good contrast make for easy, painless reading. A widely adjustable font is great for folks with impaired vision, and a night mode (with an optional automatic setting) relieves eye strain in dark environments.

One very nice feature is that the entire manual is downloaded to your device, so no network access is needed to use the data in the app. One of the first topics addressed is power, so that you can keep your device powered up and providing information.

When specific products or outside topics are mentioned, a link is often provided. If you're reading in preparation for emergencies instead of during them, this makes a handy way to expand your learning or pick up needed supplies.

The biggest drawback to this app is that is has no illustrations, and it would be far more useful if it did. The developer is aware of this and claims to be working towards it. A second, more personal complaint is that I really hate reading on my phone. This ceases to be an issue on a tablet, but my phone is the device that is always with me, so that's where the data will be most available to me.

The Offline Survival Manual is free in the Google Play store. A similar app can be found for Apple products in the iTunes store.


Monday, April 9, 2018

Product Review: Gamma Seal Lid

I occasionally find myself with a lot of something to store, but with a need to be able to get to it on a regular basis. One of my favorite solutions to this is to use a 5 gallon bucket  --  depending on what I am storing, I will either use a bog-standard Home Depot orange bucket, or a food-grade 5 gallon bucket from a local food storage warehouse -- and a gamma seal lid.

A gamma seal lid consists of two parts:
  1. A rim that you place onto a bucket that has a special rubber O-ring that rests on top of the rim of a bucket, and has threading facing the interior of the bucket.
  2. A lid that has matching threads and a second O-ring, allowing for a water tight seal.

  • They open and close quickly, with a good seal on the lid that prevents all sorts of issues. I have never seen one of these fail in such a way that it allowed mice or other vermin in. I have seen the bucket that they are attached to fail, but I have never seen a lid fail. (Editor's Note: I have. A rat chewed through the lid of a storage bucket we keep on the back porch.)
  • They do seem to keep food fresh for quite some time compared to standard “Snap on/snap off” lids for five gallon buckets. I am not aware of official tests with this; my observation is based on my own tests with brown sugar and seeing how long it takes to solidify.
  • They are very convenient in that they screw on and off of a five gallon bucket easily and conveniently. If you have to get something out on a regular basis (like cat food, for example) it is much nicer than having to snap on a lid.

  • At around twelve to fifteen dollars each, they're kind of expensive and can be out of reach for someone who is looking for a lot of storage. The problem comes when you have to purchase a dozen of these at once, and how it can come out to be a notable expense all at once.
  • Putting the lid on the first time requires either a fair amount of muscle, or (if you are me) figuring out how to sit on it just right to get the lid on in the first place.
As an aside, here's the method that I use to get lids on the first time:
  1. Screw the lid together, making sure that the threads are lined up correctly.
  2. Make sure that the bucket that you are using is clean, and has no pieces missing from it.
  3. Set the lid down on the bucket, lining up the groove with the edge of the bucket.
  4. Sit on one edge. Stand up, rotate, and sit down again. 
  5. Repeat until the lid has fully “snapped on” to the bucket.
  • If you ever have to remove the lid completely, prying the seated rim off can be very difficult.
  • The threading on the lid will occasionally have trouble matching up to the threading on the bucket, and it will take a couple of tries to screw it in correctly.

I think these are excellent and would recommend these to anyone looking at food storage, or storing anything granular and dry (kitty litter, dog food, rock salt, etc). The cost is negligible over the long term, and I have had some of my lid/bucket combinations for a number of years. I know people who use them on a more than daily basis that have yet to have them break, wear out, or otherwise cease to function.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Rhi Readies for the Ride

A few years ago, Evelyn and I took a month-long sabbatical, camping out here in my home state of Oklahoma on the land owned by some good friends of mine. We had some interesting adventures together out in the piney woods, with bacon-stealing dogs who let themselves into my tent, horses that decided to investigate Evie's tent, fishing, and one bitey duck who was rather delicious once we got through with him.

We're both in need of another month away from the stress of modern life, and this time, I'm going out to Arizona for the trip.

Unlike last time, Evie and I won't be someplace where it will be convenient to hop into town on any sort of regular basis, which means that there are items that stayed home on our prior trip which will go with me this time, like my full blown camp kitchen with its own pop-up canopy, all of my camp kitchen gear, more than one stove, my foldable Coleman camp oven to set up over one of the stoves, and several extra pieces of cast iron cookware that usually only go to Reenactor events with me.

Cast Iron Waffle Maker!

One of the better finds during a recent flea market scavenger hunt for cast iron was a really neat waffle iron! I'm planning on packing it into the camp kitchen gear box, along with some already made up "just add water" waffle batter, so we can have waffles and homemade buckboard bacon for breakfast early in the trip. The bacon is currently curing here at home, and will be going into the smoke house for a 12 hour maple smoke bath tomorrow.

You can see from the photo that the waffle iron I found comes with its own ring stand (also cast iron) to set it over the fire. I'm planning to replace the old handles with a new pair of wooden dowels that will have a nail through the pin hole to hold them in place. It was a truly spectacular find at only $7.

I'm also taking along a custom made cast iron tripod to hang things over the fire, such as my 6 quart dutch oven, my 8 quart cauldron, and the ever important coffee pot!

While I was able to repair the tent I previously used, it has since gone the way of the dodo and been replaced. My new tent is about the same size as my old one (meaning it technically has room for 12) and is what I still consider to be a pretty near "perfect" size for me. It wouldn't do for backpacking, or even for bugging out unless I had enough warning to pack up the car first, but it's great for my Reenactor Weekends or a long term camping trip such as this one will be.

Many of my food preparations are quite similar to those which Evelyn is making. Foil-packed tuna in several different flavors has become a staple in my home and is a part of my bug out bag. They're cheap, they pack small, and they make great individual size servings. There are also a few types of Ramen style noodles in my kitchen box as well, along with regular pasta, regular rice, and quick cook boil-in-bag rice.

I'm also packing honey rather than regular sugar. It takes the same amount of space, but I like the flavor and nutrient value of honey over processed sugar. Whether it be Honey Stix or the ubiquitous bear, honey is an all-around great way to add some sweet to morning coffee, fireside pancakes and waffles, or just as a quick pick me up when added energy is needed.

I've also been experimenting with pemmican. These days, it's easy to find freeze-dried vegetables and fruits at the grocery store, all of which powder well. There is even freeze-dried cheese powder, if you're willing to look for it. So rather than just the standard pemmican of meat + berry + tallow, there are going to be a few different varieties to try out: I'm adding powdered freeze-dried veggie mix to some, cheese powder to at least one batch, and freeze dried fruit to another batch. I'm also making a couple of batches with just meat, but which will be seasoned with various herbs as they're being put together.

In all, I'm hoping to have about 10 lbs of pemmican ready in time for the Ride. I'll probably also pack along the remaining tallow that I rendered for use in campfire baking during that month. If we get a strong response on our Facebook Group, I'll include my pemmican recipes and methods (along with my notes about what worked and what didn't) in the future.

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

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