Friday, March 29, 2019

A Few Thoughts

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
My mother had knee replacement surgery 2 weeks ago, and so I've been helping take care of her and also doing a lot of her chores around the house while she recovers. Therefore, this post will not have a single topic; instead, it's what David calls a "buffet post".

Save Your Post-Surgery Medication
This advice does not apply to antibiotics; if you are prescribed an antibiotic then you must finish your entire course of medication unless your doctor says otherwise.

However, for everything else that is prescribed on an as-needed basis -- anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, pain killers, etc -- keep them in your preps to have on hand for an emergency. For example, I am prone to kidney stones, and in 99% of all such cases the best treatment is to wait for the stone to pass into the bladder. However, the act of passage hurts immensely; my mother, who has had three children and one kidney stone, said that her stone hurt worse than any of her deliveries. The next time I have another kidney stone, instead of going to the ER I'll just take one of the oxycodones I was prescribed in 2017 after the dog attack and then try to sleep through the pain until it passes.

Don't throw your medication away once it's past its expiration date, either! That date simply means "After this point the medicine is no longer 100% effective." I don't know about you, but I'm just fine taking medicine with a 99% effectiveness. See this post for more details, but the short version is that you can easily get four or more years worth of storage out of medications.

Cultivate Additional Food Sources
Our back yard butts up against a forest, and my mother enjoys feeding the squirrels, raccoons and deer which live there. Not only are we encouraging the growth of an animal population which could feed us in an emergency, but we are also conditioning them to not fear humans.

Have a Plan to Move Disabled Family Members
If we had to evacuate right now, it would be a lot more complicated than normal. Not only is mom moving much more slowly, but she needs a walker. That factors into my bug out plans, because it means that any evacuation will take longer and will require space for her walker (thankfully, it's collapsible) in the car.

If we have to walk?  Well, I have a deer cart and a chaise lounge cushion. It won't be fun for either of us, but if it'll cart a 500 lb deer out of the forest, it will easily carry a 120 pound woman and her BOB.

That's all for now. Hopefully I've have a more coherent post next week!

Thursday, March 28, 2019


Last week I posted a bunch of information about where to find road condition information in various states. Several of the websites had “511” in the name, and one of my friends asked why that particular number was used, so I thought I would explain that a bit.

Way back when rotary-dial phones were still in use, every phone call was routed through mechanical switches, and the clicks that the phone made as the dial returned to its rest position controlled the mechanical switches. Because of certain physical restraints and standards imposed by the monopoly that ran 98% of the phone systems, the first three digits of any phone number (the area code) couldn’t start with a 1 or 0 and the second number was always either 1 or 0. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stepped in and brokered an agreement with Canada for a uniform numbering system, the North American Numbering Plan (NANP), under which certain numbers were set aside for public service use. The first digits 0 and 1 were still reserved for operator-assisted and long-distance calls respectively, but with the NANP we got the ubiquitous 911 emergency number along with a few others that aren’t as well known.

When the phone systems in the US switched to all-digital equipment in the late 1990s, it opened up that second digit in the area code and made millions of more phone numbers possible just in time for the explosion of the cell phone market. The Internet and cell phones have obsoleted many of the N11 numbers, but they’re still in the regulations. Here are the numbers in use and how they are to be used.

Community services and referral information. If you are looking to contact the local Red Cross or some other health/human services organization, try this number. It’s only available if the local government or a non-profit organization runs it.

City services and/or non-emergency contact for police and fire departments. This is a handy way to report potholes and graffiti around your city without tying up a line to the emergency services dispatcher (which is considered illegal — at the least a misdemeanor — in many states anyway).

Directory assistance. This is a left-over from a time when phone books were still common It’s only useful for local numbers, and most of the large cell phone companies don’t publish their customer’s numbers, so this one is somewhat obsolete, although many people still have land lines in addition to cell phones and those land lines still get printed phone directories.

Road condition information (usually at the state level). Most states still offer an automated phone service if you call 511, giving the highlights of road closures and construction.

Customer service. This number is not specifically designated as such, but is so used by many phone companies. It is the number to call for a problem with telephone service, or to report an outage, etc. Most of us have experienced what the phone companies consider customer service, so this one is pretty useless, in my opinion.

TRS (Telephone Relay Service) and TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf), services for the deaf and blind. Paid for by the phone companies, TDD and TRS give the disabled a way to communicate in near real-time.

Before-You-Dig. This number was set aside for as a digger’s one-call system: before you dig into the soil anywhere, you’re supposed to call this number and the local utilities will send out a “locator” to find and mark any underground wires or pipes. Failure to use this normally free service has cost a lot of idiots a lot of money and caused some major headaches. “Bubba with a backhoe” is the derogatory term for someone who manages to pull up or cut into a buried phone line or gas pipe, causing a service outage that can vary from a neighborhood to a city, and (in the case of the gas) risk fire and/or explosion. I’ve seen some rather large outages in my time, up to and including the idiot who ruptured a high-pressure natural gas transfer pipe. That one took weeks to fix once the residual gas bled off (and was intentionally set on fire).

Emergency services. We’re all familiar with this one; if you need the police, fire department, or medical aid, you’ve been taught to dial 911. Cell phones are required by law to have GPS locators in them so the dispatchers can know where you are; land lines will show up with their version of caller ID, but phone-over-internet calls have created a hole in the system. The proposed authentication system for combating robo-callers may close this hole and shut off the “swatting” of people by spoofing their phone numbers.

I know this isn’t strictly prepper material, but I’m answering a legitimate question from a reader. We’re still dealing with flood waters in my area and it looks like we’ll be seeing them for several months. The snowpack upstream is just starting to melt and we’re expecting more rain, so the rivers will be full again this weekend. Unlike a hurricane or storm surge, our flooding tends to be long, drawn-out periods of miserable weather coupled with some of the most helpful people in the world.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Smith's Diamond Precision

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 still not in my own place, and it might not happen until after the first weekend of April, but my sister hasn’t complained so I just might make it! I have more room to spread out here and reorganize my gear, but in my latest round of packing I kept discovering things that I honestly forgot I owned. Some things are fun discoveries, and some are an absolute “When did this come home with me, and why did it end up in this tote?”
One find was a sharpening set I didn’t know I had: a Smith’s 50594 Diamond Precision Knife Sharpening System!

My co-bloggers pretty much shamed me into buying a Lansky Sharpening set several years ago, and I’ve used it often to touch-up my two pocket knives. That set is in a tote now, and I couldn’t necessarily find it quickly, but the Smith’s set popped up.

From the Amazon page:
  • Durable folding angle guides; angle guide with four sharpening angles to choose from;
  • V-Lock vise holds knife at consistent angle during sharpening;
  • One-inch wide stones; coarse diamond, fine diamond, serrated edge stone bar;
  • Micro-tool sharpening pad on diamond stones; sharpening groove for hooks and pointed tools;
  • Oversized thumb screws on vise; premium honing solution cleans and protects; fabric storage pouch.

Head to Head Comparison
  • Both the Smith's and Lansky sets use guide rods; the Smith’s rods screw into the end of the stones, while the Lansky rods screw into the side.
  • Both sets need to have straight rods to maintain the proper angles, so there usually needs to be some tweaking with both. 
  • Both sets have a guide frame with cutouts marked with the popular blade angles, but Smith’s guide folds and the Lansky guide does not. 
  • Both guides use screws to hold the knife blade steady, and here is where I think the Smith’s set is better, as its screws are larger and easier to use when locking the blade down. 
  • Another difference is the folding guide in the Smith’s kit; the Lansky guide is fixed, but given how each one fits into their respective carrying cases, I don’t think one is obviously better than the other.
  • One very big difference between the two sets I have is that the Lansky kit is a 5 stone set, but the Smith’s kit has only three. Judging by the tote in which I found it, it’s been buried from before my previous move (more than 6 years ago) when I really really didn’t have much extra cash.

There are obviously many similarities with the Lansky and Smith’s sets, and if I could put my hands on both, I’d do a head-to-head sharpen-off. Stay tuned!

The Takeaway
  • I can’t say I enjoy moving, but given the chance to do some really deep cleaning and sorting, I find I feel better about what I have, and now I can put my hands on things.
  • This sharpening set is going into my camping gear when I find the Lansky set.

The Recap
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but this Smith’s Diamond Sharpening system looks like a good-quality, entry-level sharpening system at a bargain price.
  • The Smith’s system is available from Amazon for $39.99 with Prime shipping available.

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 or given in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Bug Out... House?

We’ve talked quite a bit in the past about bug out bags, bug out plans, and even bug out vehicles. Today, though, I want to offer up the notion of a bug out house.

Don't worry, I’m not seriously going to try and convince you that you can somehow move your entire house, and while having a second house that is distant enough from your primary residence to serve as a bug-out location would be great, no way is that blue collar. But what is blue collar, and almost as good as having that second house, is having some manner of RV or camper.

I will concede that large, fancy camping rigs are incredibly expensive, sometimes costing as much as a small house or even more. But a budget-minded individual who is a bit handy can acquire an older unit for the price of  a teenager's first car. A rig like this will need some maintenance that newer units won’t yet need, and it won’t have all the top conveniences, but it will keep you warm (or cool, depending on season) and dry, and is considerably more comfortable than a tent.

Trailers obviously aren’t as quick to press into action as a simple grab-and-go bag. Depending on who we’re taking with us, and where we are when we get the call to go, it would take my family somewhere between one and two hours to get loaded up, hitched up, and on the road. My brother-in-law can have his trailer rolling in an hour or less, but his is a much smaller and simpler rig. However, the trade-off for that slower reaction time is that a trailer can be kept stocked with sundry nonperishable supplies and equipment that would be infeasible or impossible to carry in a bag.

Another complication with a camping rig is the need for a tow vehicle and fuel for same. I’ll go into the particulars of towing at a later time, since it's a valuable skill to know, but for now it's enough to say that all but the very smallest of cars can tow something. My best friend hauls his trailer with a Dodge Durango, I pull mine with an old Ford F150, and my last rig, which my brother-in-law now owns, could easily be pulled with a midsize car.

Finally, don’t discount the “recreational” part of the name. Recreation is vital to mental and emotional health, and maintaining your emotional well-being during an extended emergency is every bit as important as keeping up your physical health, and if you’re so lucky that you never need to bug out, you can still use your RV or camper to spend time outdoors, learning and practicing skills, and making lifelong memories. Many of my outdoors experiences growing up came while camping in Mom and Dad’s old rig, and the love I had for those experiences drove me to build more skills and learn more. These are the same skills I now pass on to the Scouts I teach, as well as to my friends’ children.

If you’re caught in an evacuation scenario like the Southeastern USA regularly gets with hurricanes, or the Midwest is currently seeing with rain and flooding, being able to hitch up a small house and leave within an hour or so grants a lot of flexibility. You don’t need a friend with an available bed, or a hotel room that may be in short supply, and you don’t have to figure out where to stash the family pet(s); all you need is a friendly parking lot or a bit of driveway at a friend’s home.

[Editor's note: Chaplain Tim has a series on converting and upgrading an RV ad a bug out vehicle here.]


Sunday, March 24, 2019

The RATS Tourniquet Debacle

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I am a tourniquet elitist, and that's because I vehemently believe that a first aid device which can mean the difference between my life and my death ought to be reliable. As far as I'm concerned, there are only two tourniquets in existence which are worth my money, and those are the Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT) by North American Rescue and the SOF Tactical Tourniquet Wide (SOFTT-W) by Tactical Medical Solutions.

You'll note that neither of them are a Rapid Application Tourniquet System (RATS) tourniquet, which is half the price. The fact that I don't recommend something less expensive is a good indicator that I don't like it.

Now to be fair, the RATS is better than bleeding to death, so I suppose if you can't afford a CAT or a SOFTT-W then I guess you can carry it, but I wouldn't recommend it. And I don't say this because I claim to be an expert with medical devices; I'm not. Rather, it's because the U.S. Department of Defense Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC from now on) -- a body which has the authoritative word on whether or not a piece of medical equipment deserves a place on the battlefield -- endorses only three tourniquets, and the RATS isn't on that list.
As a point of interest, both the CAT and the SOFTT-W are on that CoTCCC list, which is why I recommend them. The third is the Emergency and Military Tourniquet (EMT), which costs $475! It's probably amazing, but most of us don't have that kind of money to spend on what is probably a one-use item, especially when there are others which are much less expensive. 
Now, some of you are probably wondering why I bothered to bring up the RATS in the first place. This is because the inventor of the RATS has been caught engaging in shady practices involving:
  • registering domains which sound like those of his competitors (for example, the CAT belongs to North American Rescue,, and he registered;
  • routing those domains to a page he owns, where he claims (falsely) that his non-endorsed tourniquet is superior to the CoTCCC-endorsed tourniquets;
  • "proving" his claims using cherry-picked data and an endorsement by the USTCCC, which is not a regulatory body but rather a commercial enterprise, and therefore nowhere near as impartial at it sounds. 
    • Or at least, USTCCC was a commercial enterprise; it seems to have disappeared entirely from the internet. Again, this is not the behavior of a reputable source!
There are links to my sources are at the end of this article if you'd like more details. 

The moral of the story: Just because something claims to be the best doesn't mean it is the best. Research before you buy, because the life you safe with your first aid gear might be a loved one's or your own. 

Further Reading
(in chronological order)

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Floods and Roads

Last week was a mess. The rapid rise in temperatures coupled with abundant snow, three inches of rain, and still-frozen ground led to widespread flash flooding over most of the upper Midwest. Iowa and Nebraska got hit hard and fast, with rivers and streams rising out of their banks and levees breaking from the pressure of the surge of water. I had a nice policeman knock on my door and tell me that I was in the area under mandatory evacuation, even though my house is higher than the 500 and 1000 year flood plains. They aren't forcing anyone out of their houses (so I'm staying put), but they are going around and shutting off water, electricity, and gas service to any house in jeopardy of being flooded.

I've been through floods here in 1993 and 2011, and those were both slow, drawn-out rises in the Missouri River that caused tributaries to back up and flood low areas. This year the water didn't have time to get to the Missouri; the tributaries couldn't couldn't handle the sudden melt/rain. After the wet fall we had last year the ground is saturated, and the exceptionally cold winter pushed the frost line down below three feet. That means that we have solid ice at least three feet deep where dirt should be, and ice doesn't absorb water like dirt does. Even when the ground thaws, it's still saturated from last year, and most new water will run off. There is still substantial snow on the ground upstream of us that has to melt, so our rivers are going to stay full for a long time.

Fatalities have been mercifully low in Iowa and Nebraska, though a handful of people have paid the price for driving around barricades or trying to drive through a river running across a road. The main issues for us range in scale from "There is water in basements that have never been wet before" to "Entire towns are underwater." Grain bins full of corn and soybeans are sitting in several feet of water, and several small cities have been turned into islands with no possibility of ground traffic in or out. The flooding is still underway, so we don't have a good accounting of the amount of livestock killed and equipment lost, but it's going to be a rough spring for area farmers.

Right now the biggest problem is the old "You can't get there from here" joke; roads are under water, bridges have been washed away, and debris is everywhere. I live on the edge of a small town that sits on the intersection of two highways, one running north/south, the other east/west. We have one additional route out of town in each direction, both of them gravel roads. By the second day, all but one of those routes were under water, and all of the routes cross rivers or large streams/creeks.

Information is vital in situations like this. The Federal Highway Administration has a website with a nice map of the states where you can click on each state and get redirected to a page that will take you to the state's page (after sending you to a page to remind you that you're leaving the federal site). I've trimmed out the extra steps and have compiled a list of each state and their road conditions, with a bit of commentary on each. Some of the links were broken, which is to be expected with internet sites constantly evolving; add to that the fact that we're talking about government sites, and I'm surprised there weren't more broken links. I can't promise that they will all work forever, but they worked when I found them.
  • An interactive map with live updates, pretty standard.
  • There may not be a lot of roads in Alaska, but here's a live map of the current conditions. It has an email alert sign-up pop up that needs to be dismissed before you get to the map.
  • Another interactive map, this one has an annoying route planner covering the left quarter of the map until you dismiss it.
  • Standard map with color-coded travel conditions.
  • CA can't be normal, so this one is a confusing mess of a map requiring you to select an area to get any information. Even the 511 information is broken up into regions.
  • Not a simple map to navigate like most states have, but rather several pages with much more information. Colorado does have some rather unique travel hazards.
  • Nice clean map of the roads and conditions.
  • The link on the FHA page was broken, so I dug around and found the DelDOT page. Nice clean map with standard features.
  • A typical interactive map with the route planner that covers part of the screen.
  • Different color scheme than most travel maps; you'll need to use the pull-downs on the left to select which data you want displayed. My first visit had some pop-up windows for email alerts.
  • No single map, but a link to the roadwork for each island. Weather related road closure doesn't seem to be an issue for some reason.
  • Full-service road conditions. You'll need to select what type or level of information you want to get to the maps.
  • Another state with plenty of options to choose from for what information you need.
  • One of two choices from IN, this one is the simpler of the two. Common road condition map, even if it does start zoomed out too far. The hazard indicators covered the entire state until I zoomed in enough to get some scale.
  • Interactive map with various options for internet speed and level of detail. Phone app available.
  • Oddly structured site with somewhat confusing layout. The link from the FHA site was broken, but I found the KS page.
  • Probably the most annoying of all the state pages with splash screens to close, pop-ups to ignore, and then finally you get to a standard interactive map. Typical of my experiences with this state.
  • Simple, basic, interactive map with the information you need.
  • Part of the “New England 511”, a regional map with Vermont and New Hampshire.
  • Redirects from the linked on the FHA site to a newer site with more information choices.
  • Standard interactive map with route planner.
  • I almost missed this one because the hyperlink was hard to see. Standard interactive map.
  • Another example of a DOT that gives you options. Pick the type of internet connection and the level of information you need to get to a decent map.
  • Choose between viewing the map or downloading the app; either will give you the road conditions.
  • A simple travelers map with plenty of information and a ticker scrolling important information along the bottom.
  • Several options available, this is the cleanest map of the bunch.
  • Choose your level of information and get to a good map. Common format among the sites for states with lots of truck traffic.
  • It took a few clicks to find the road conditions map, but it is there.
  • Part of a regional map with Maine and Vermont. Map updates very frequently.
  • A standard 511 map that shows all of the routes out of NJ.
  • Nice, clean map with road conditions.
  • A good map for the 95% of the state that isn't NYC.
  • This one took a bit of clicking around to find the map. Good map, but the alerts take up a lot of the screen.
  • Having traveled ND quite a bit in my younger days, this is one that needs to be bookmarked. There are long stretches between towns and the terrain is perfect for blizzards and floods.
  • Interactive map with the option to download their travel app.
  • All of the links I could find were broken; OK needs to upgrade their IT staff and servers. I finally found a way to their site through
  • The default settings make the map a bit busy, so uncheck the boxes for information you don't need to make it more legible.
  • Another map with an options bar on the left that takes up too much screen.
  • A landing page with options. Most of the information is segregated by region.
  • A nice landing page with options that include a map of traffic and road conditions.
  • No official state map, but a link to a commercial (?) site with the information you'll need.
  • A few clicks to get there from the FHA site, but TN does have a map of traffic and road conditions.
  • A busy map, which isn't surprising. Location pop-up before you get to the map.
  • Fair map, but with auto-playing traffic cams.
  • Part of a regional map along with Maine and New Hampshire. Basic map with constant updates.
  • Clean, simple, easy to navigate.
  • After being sent to a confusing landing page, I finally found the map. I did learn that WA is no longer printing paper highway maps.
  • Busy map until you uncheck some of the default information boxes.
  • A good, simple map once you close the panel of alerts on the left.
  • Wyoming
    A simple landing page, and the map is easy to find.
All told, the Federal Highway Administration is a fair source of information. I also ran across SafeTravelUSA and saw a lot of mentions of Waze, which is a community-driven travel app for your smart phone. Crowd-sourced information may be a good way to avoid a traffic jam in good weather, but I'm not sure how effective it would be in a serious storm or disaster. Maybe one of the more tech-savvy folks out there would like to look into Waze for us?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Intermission

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

I mentioned in last week's post that it was my first post-move article. This is my second post-move blog entry, but it isn't the final, totally over-and-done-with-moving post.

You see, I'm staying with my wonderful sister and brother-in-law while my next place to live is getting settled and sorted out. I'm moving again in April, for what I hope will be a nice long stay.

Spring, I Hope
This post is about what I'm doing with the time between moves: an intermission, defined as "A pause or break." A break is exactly what I needed after getting out of the place I lived in for the past 5 years, a break to continue to weed out and trim down what I own and want to have with me. This has taken longer than I thought it would, and also longer than it should. I (and the rest of us here at BCP) write about disaster preparedness, Bugging Out and Getting Home regularly, but it turns out I needed these moves to really get set to live the life I write. I'm not a hoarder in any way, but I have collected too many things that I can do without quite easily.

Since I'll be with different people (the Master Chief has moved elsewhere), my stored food will be changing slightly to reflect the people I'll be around. Before I moved, I already donated the easily sorted items, so what's left are the 'good quality' things that have to make the cut to 'excellent quality and very useful' all the time. I'm also using this time to check on every last emergency item in my gear, such as:

Camping Gear
  • I have multiple stoves, so each one is getting looked over to see if parts (like wind shields) are missing,  and that the repair parts are included in the WhisperLite bag.
  • Rain gear. My primary coat and pants have gone with me to work every day for several winters now, so I checked on the spare ones I keep with my extra backpacks.
  • My tent, waterproof tarps and ground cloths are neatly stored in a storage tote.
Get Home
  • I'm much, much closer to home this year, so the Bag of Homing is being pared down a little with extra clothing coming out of the pack and into a bag in the trunk. If I need it when I'm farther away from home, it will be available, as with food and water. Thinking like this has removed almost 5 lbs of 'must carry' weight from my pack.
  • Packing some of the Get Home necessities in the trunk means I need to clean up where things are stored there too. I'm keeping a case of bottled water and the excess Get Home gear in bags, stored in and behind my trunk organizer. While I seriously miss my truck, having a place to store equipment completely out of sight trumps the versatility of my beloved truck.
Home Stores
This is the last difficult bit I'm working on now: the things I want. Frank Lloyd Wright wrote,“Give me the luxuries of life and I will gladly do without the necessities.” Yeah, about those...
  • Canned goods are being transitioned to freeze-dried much slower than I like, but I have a definite budget to follow. The bulky things are still going into the Buckets of Holding, even when I get more food designed for longer term storage. Pasta and sauces, rice and such don't compact down very small.
  • Clothes are the next things to get a brutal trimming. I'm amazed at what I still have, even with two trash bags full of clothes going to Goodwill. I don't need anywhere close to the number of shirts and polos I have, even if I like the company logos.
  • Finally, I really will be going through my books since in my new place I won't have room to put up all the shelves I'd need to get even 50% of my collection displayed. Many are going to be sold, some are going to friends that will appreciate them, and I'll keep the balance and maybe finagle a little space for one compact set of shelves.

The Takeaway
  • I know most of you are still in the middle of winter, but it's never too early to get your gear out and ready for an emergency. 
  • Floods, more snow and rain are forecast even for me here in California. Don't be caught with little to show for your planning.

The Recap
  • Be hard on yourself in your preps. If you don't, or can't, it will be even harder to get away in an emergency or even move like I'm doing. 
  • Nothing was purchased this week but lots of sweat was spent.
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, March 19, 2019

Splitting Maul Introduction

It's firewood season for me now that spring is upon us. This video is a quick demonstration of my favorite way to split firewood.


Monday, March 18, 2019

Video Review: Orion Campfire Starter/Signal Flare

You can buy these from Amazon in a pack of two for $15 ($7.50 per flare) or a pack of 12 for $35 ($2.92 each).

From the Amazon entry:
  • Offers a small size measuring 5-1/4-inches long and weighing only 8-ounces
  • Features a self contained, windproof ignition
  • Eliminates the need for matches
  • Offers to burn up to 7-minutes in excess of 2,000-degrees F
  • Features a new eco-friendly formulation that contains no perchlorate chemicals

Some more pictures:

Even the box caught fire

Packaging is different from Amazon, but performance is just as good

Friday, March 15, 2019

Steel: What Kind and From Where?

Steel isn't hard to find, generally not expensive, and you can do lots of things with it. But what kind do you use, and where do you find it, once you’ve decided on a project for it?

Mild Steel
For a lot of things (basic ironwork, braces, learning the art of forging) you can use mild steel. This is a basic steel, composed of iron and up to 0.2% carbon. It’s used in rebar (the bar with a textured surface used to reinforce concrete), angle iron, steel straps of many sizes, and lots of other things that require the strength of steel but don't need to be flexible or hold a cutting edge. You can get it at a salvage yard, or if you need a particular size (width, thickness, shape) you can call steel companies and see if they have it.

If you want to try to grind or forge cutting tools, keep it simple in the beginning. That means using a steel with at least 0.6% carbon, but not a highly-alloyed type that requires intricate heat treatment. There are two I recommend for this task: 5160 and O1.

Both of these types of steel are oil-hardening steels [which means that the alloy is heated and then quenched in oil], and people have used vegetable oil, commercial heat-treating oil (there are different types for different steels), and 5-weight motor oil. Both types need to be quenched to harden from a critical temperature of 1500º F (which can be reached in a charcoal or coal fire, or in a small fire-brick enclosure using a couple of torches), and can be tempered, depending on intended use, at anywhere from 375-500º F. Neither requires the very high and ‘must be just right’ temperatures of stainless or the highly alloyed steels, and they also temper at lower temperatures, In fact, you can do the tempering in a kitchen oven*.

5160 Steel
5160 steel can be found all over, as it’s used to make leaf and coil springs for car and truck suspensions. It can be found in many sizes as well; hit a salvage yard and you can get it for scrap price, which was around $0.20/lb the last time I bought some (prices will vary). The carbon content for this steel is 0.6% and you can use it for chisels, knives, swords, and springs. It’s really good for bigger knives that will be used for heavy cutting or chopping, but it will work well for a small knife as well.

O1 Steel
O1 is a high-carbon tool steel. It’s best to order/purchase this from an industrial supply so you know exactly what you’re getting; it’s also sold as “oil-hardening drill rod.” It’s not as good for big, heavy cutting blades, but is truly excellent for other knives and chisels.

Generic Medium-Carbon Steel
That’s steel for large projects addressed, but what about for small? Perhaps you need something with which to make a small flat or v-shaped spring intended for light duty?

Take a look around the hardware store, or someplace construction is being done. See that thin steel strap they wrap bundles of brick and such with? That just might work, as might a worn-out hacksaw blade. I’ve known of people making a new magazine spring for a bolt-action rifle using these.

One more source for small medium-carbon stock, good for springs and flint strikers and the like: overhead garage door springs. It's really handy, and you can often get a piece of a broken one for free (or at least cheap) from companies that install and maintain the doors.

*Make sure you clean all the quench oil off first; it smells bad if you don’t.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Chaplain Tim

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I received this email from Chaplain Tim last night:
Subject: Thursday post

I'm going to try to get one together,  but I just had a nice policeman at my door inform me that the my section of town is under an evacuation order due to flooding. They're not stupid enough to force evacuation, so I'm not going anywhere.

Electricity is off for 25% of town already, the rest is possible. Power company put the substation in the flood zone.

This crap just came out of nowhere. Blogfodder, but it is going to be a while before I get it worked out. 

As of 4 pm today I texted Tim with "Are you staying dry?" He responded with "River breached the levee on the opposite of my place, so I am good for a while."

If you're the praying sort, please spare a good word with $deity regarding those in Iowa affected by state-wide flooding.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Prudent Prepping: March Delirium

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

This is my first post-move blog entry, and since I’m too tired to make it into a buffet post, you get this.

I’ve uncovered some books and equipment I haven’t seen in literally years. Some of it is useful, a little bit of it is junk. Okay, more than a little of my stuff is junk, or at least items that I have no use for now. There is some monetary value to many items, however, and I’m not giving things away, but holding on until the unusually heavy rains stop so I can have a nice garage sale!

What's In The Box?
If I told you some of the things I found, you might not believe me. One of the cooler things I found in a box with my 1960’s Boy Scout manual was my Pro-Knot card with most of the knots I still use.
I keep this card in my camping gear  to show those I'm out with what a proper knot for each situation should be done. It always comes up that "I learned to tie this from my Gramps" and while it is a good knot, it may not be the correct knot this time.

From the Pro-Knot Amazon page:
This six card set is easy to understand with clear illustrations for the twenty best all-purpose rope knots - see complete list of knots below. If it's on this card set, it is a proven, useful and trusted knot! These rope knots are universal for survival, boating, climbing, prepping, search and rescue, home and ranch, scouts, camping, paddle sports and any outdoor activity involving rope. There are step-by-step instructions for joining ropes together, tying rope to objects and making loops.
  • Waterproof solid plastic cards with no-rust brass grommet
  • 20 essential rope knots
  • Size: 3½ x 2¼ x 1/8 inch, weighs less than one ounce.
  • Perfect backpack, glove box, bug-out-bag or boat
 Knots include: Bowline (single best all-around knot to know), Square Knot, Water Knot (best knot for use with nylon webbing), Rolling Hitch, Clove Hitch, Sheet Bend (doubled version too), Trucker's Hitch (a must know knot), Mooring Hitch (quick release knot), Cleat Hitch (boaters must-know knot), Tautline Hitch (adjustable knot for camp guy-lines), Buntline Hitch (use for attaching rings, snaps, etc to rope), Prusik Knot, Butterfly Knot, Half Hitch, Constrictor Knot (bundle up loose items), Double Fisherman's (join two ropes), Figure Eight, Bowline on a Bight, Sheep Shank, Timber Hitch. 20 knots total.
I remember learning many of these knots in Boy Scouts, and since I don’t tie most of them regularly, the card is a really handy refresher for me. Someplace in my fishing gear (I hope) is the companion set of cards listing 20 common fishing knots.

More Reading
I mentioned this book in a post way back in 2014, and it turned up in a box with non-prepper books. It was purchased used from a local store, but is available from Amazon.

The Lost Lore of a Man's Life : Lots of Cool Stuff Guys Used to Know But Forgot About the Great Outdoors is a collection of articles from the the early 1900's that anyone from that era would more than likely know if they spent time out of doors.
"To restore men's rightful heritage, Denis Boyles and Gregg Stebben, the coauthors of A Man's Life: The Complete Instructions, have compiled a priceless treasury of forgotten lore and rustic hobbies that our forefathers possessed but that we have lost. Culled from turn-of-the-century publications and old scouting-type manuals, this guide is written in our grandfathers' language, with their sensibility and wisdom."

I am unable to take a clear picture of the Title Page, Table of Contents or the Acknowledgements which list what is included and where most of the contents originated. Seriously, this is a really fun and interesting book!

The Takeaway
  • While I hate moving with a passion that can't be expressed in polite society, I'm finding things that I need and now I can dump the things I truly don't. Even if it hurts!

The Recap
Nothing was purchased for this post, but you should check out:
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, March 12, 2019

Chemical Specialty PPE

I’ve discussed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) a couple of times in the past, and for good reason: it's the last line of defense against injury when doing work. In addition to basic PPE, there are specialty protective items that are used to address dangers related to particular tasks.

One fairly common work hazard involves chemical exposure. Part of my work this week has involved repairing the power feed to some pumps in a sewer manhole. In addition, many of my hobbies involve volatile chemicals. Additionally, a lot of prepper tasks can leave you exposed to the same kinds of risks, so having the correct protective equipment on hand will help keep you safe and healthy.

Inhaled Particles and Fumes
When dealing with dust and particulate matter in the air, a basic dust mask works wonderfully so long as it meets the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) N95 standard. I also feel like the small extra charge for the exhalation valve is money well spent, because it keeps my face cooler and my glasses from fogging. This mask, however, does nothing to protect you from the gases in the air you breathe.
For fumes and harmful vapors, a chemical cartridge mask is what you need. Similar in principle to the classic “gas mask,” these masks use replaceable cartridge filters to remove harmful chemicals as you breathe. Each type of cartridge is only useful with specific chemicals, however, so make sure you’re using the right ones and changing them as recommended by the manufacturer. Each mask will come with complete instructions for the use and care of the product.

Cartridge masks are available in both half- and full-face configurations. My personal mask is a half-face, because it is cooler, works better with my prescription eyewear, and I don’t often deal with environments so hazardous that I need sealed full-face protection. However, if you feel you need this protection, it is available.

One other major concern arises with respiratory protection: facial hair. As anyone who has been trained in its use can tell you, facial hair is largely incompatible with respiratory masks. It makes getting a good seal between the mask and your face virtually impossible, which renders the mask itself almost useless. I have come to accept as a fact of life that I have to use my mask for anything, my beautiful ginger beard will get a heavy trim. It's a sad but necessary requirement to protect my lungs.

Facial Protection
That same beard may get referred to as “face armor,” but it's worse than useless if caustic or otherwise harmful chemicals get splashed into my face, as the beard can hold the chemical against my skin or even ignite. Safety glasses protect the eyes in the event of a splash, but there’s a whole lot of face that is still exposed and can be grievously harmed. A face shield will keep sparks, splashes, and hot spatter away from you and keep your face away from harm.

Your hands are always vulnerable to harm, since they’re usually in direct contact with the hazards you’re addressing. Gloves are a necessary protective item, but when you’re dealing with chemicals, a cloth or leather glove can be at least as harmful as helpful, because it can trap dangerous and damaging materials and hold them against your skin. Gloves are also very difficult to take off in a hurry, so this prolonged contact can dramatically increase the damage suffered. Chemical-resistant gloves don't absorb dangerous substances or allow them through to contact the skin. They're also thicker than nitrile or latex gloves, meaning they last longer and are far less easily damaged or compromised.

Your clothes are also vulnerable to the same weakness as normal gloves. Chemicals can soak into your clothing, destroying it and harming you. When you’re working with very hazardous materials, or in an environment where spills and splashes are most likely, a disposable coverall suit with a hood gives a nearly complete body covering. Combined with the rest of the PPE I’ve discussed here and elsewhere, this outfit will protect you from almost any chemical exposure a prepper will encounter.

The kinds of exposures it won’t help with are the kind requiring very expensive, very specialized gear and training [e.g. MOPP gear, or Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear, usually designed for chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons], and are situations into which one shouldn’t enter unless it is your job or your duty to do so and you have the gear and training available to properly handle them.

Chemical exposures can be very dangerous. The kinds of protective gear needed to deal with them are inexpensive and readily available. There is no reason to be unprepared.


Monday, March 11, 2019

Emergency Heat: "New" Old Kerosene Heaters

The good: Kerosene and its heaters are cheap to buy, unlike propane canisters.

The bad: Unlike propane, kereosene isn't available everywhere.

The ugly: Kerosene goes bad, and while burning it stinks like diesel.

Again, if you don't have a combination carbon monoxide/smoke detector, get one.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Iron and Vitamin Supplements for your BOB

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I am some degree of anemic. I base this upon my observed experiences over several years (mentioned here and here on my personal blog) where the introduction of 25-50 mg of iron via a supplement is enough to combat feelings of lethargy and brain fog.

I'm going to stop you right there. I can already hear the comments being typed in:
  1. You don't need supplements, just cook everything in a cast iron pan!
  2. Be careful, you don't want to overdose on iron!
  3. Are you sure it isn't [X]? You should get that checked / use this other supplement instead. 
Yes, I've heard all this before. Here are my answers:
  1. I'm really skeptical about the amount of iron that will leach into my food through cast iron cooking, and even if it did work, I'm not going to eat exclusively from cast iron for the rest of my life. 
  2. You're right, iron poisoning is nasty stuff. However, iron overdose only begins at 20 mg iron per kg of ingester (me), and a lethal dose is 60 mg/kg. So if I weigh 60 kg, that means I can safely ingest 1200mg of iron before it has any adverse effect on me. That's twenty-four times my daily dose, so even if I eat a big steak (6 mg iron in a 250g [8 ounce] steak), I'm nowhere near the danger zone. 
  3. Yes, I'm sure. I've been like this since 2012, but here's a more recent example: I briefly ran out of iron this week and was unable to take it for two days. The first day I was all right, but on the second I crashed like a rock into a pond. I had no energy and no desire to do anything except stay in bed. Then more iron arrived, I took it, and I immediately perked up. 
So based on all this, it is vital that I have iron supplements in my various Bug Out and Get Home Bags. I'm going to need energy in a disaster scenario, and that's not the time to find out if I can get the proper nutrition to carry me through.

I require a dose higher than most supplements provide (typically between 10 and 15 mg), so this is what I take on a daily basis. At $11 for 90 capsules, Vitamin Shoppe Comfort Iron is a very economical way for me to keep my energy on an even keel.

However, for my BOB and GHB I have this. It's slightly more expensive, but it's chewable and it also contains 100 mg of Vitamin C, which is also a good thing to have in an emergency as it boosts your body's immune system and prevents diseases like scurvy. 

Even if you don't have anemia, it's a good idea to have some form of multivitamin in your Bug Out and Get Home Bags. I recommend Centrum multivitamins; not only do they have a good spread of ingredients, but they come tailored for the specific chemistries of men, women, and adults 50+. If you have children in your family, don't forget to pack vitamins for them, too.

Thursday, March 7, 2019


I was wandering through a prepper-themed social media site the other day, and I saw someone asking for a source of e-books to store on a laptop in the event of TEOTWAWKI (“The End Of The World As We Know It”). 

Years ago, I followed a project designed to accumulate information for use in third-world countries — mainly basic agricultural, science, and construction information — so I started digging. It was called CD3WD, short for “Compact Disk of 3rd World Data,” and the project ended up with slightly more than could be fit onto a single CD.

I did mention that this was several years ago, right? CDs were a viable way to store information and could be read by any computer available at the time, but they have since been rendered obsolete by USB drives which hold far more data. A data CD could hold about 700 MB (0.7 GB for the kids who never had to deal with anything less than a GB), and the common CD-R has a shelf-life of a few decades depending on the type of dye used in its manufacturing. They were cheap and easy to make, so they were popular for a while. Modern computers may not even come with a CD/DVD drive installed any more; my wife’s new laptop didn’t.

The CD3WD project collapsed years ago and their servers were shut down, so its collection of data has been unavailable in the interim... until I managed to find a mirror site that is still up. I was digging around for general knowledge that should be saved for a rainy day, and lo and behold, there was my old friend listed, along with 27 other sources of free information. Some on the list were familiar (such as Google library and Project Gutenberg), but there are several that are going to require more investigation. It's time to dig out a couple of thumb drives and external hard drives, folks, because there’s a mountain of free information available.

The source I found is called the Autarky Library. It’s a European site, but it and most of its resources are in English. It does, however, require signing up and creating an account to download the information. Autarky would likely be written Autarchy in English, and it is the political concept of self-reliance bordering on anarchy. I know we don’t do politics here, so I won’t go into the pros and cons of the site or its philosophy, but the collection of information was just too big and too useful not to pass it on to the rest of you. If it could be useful in building or rebuilding a society, you’ll find some information about it in one of the sources listed.

Formats vary by source, with PDF being the most used, but the common e-book formats of MOBI (Kindle) and EPUB (Nook/other)] are options for a few. The types of information found in this library are amazing — everything from recipe books to machine tool operation, books written in the 1700s and books written in the 1960s, scholarly texts and Peace Corp manuals.

I just wish I had found this mountain of information a few months ago; it would have given me something productive to do over the winter. With spring approaching, my research time will be curtailed, but the time I’ll have available for getting out and actually testing and doing things will increase. It’s been a long winter, and I’m ready for spring.

The Fine Print

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