Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Prudent Prepping: To Save, Or Not to Save

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

My phone 'bricked' over the weekend. I went to start it up and it never turned on. Suspiciously, I had the new phone page from my service provider open before turning on my phone. Inquiring minds *cough Google tracking cough* and all that. Could there be a connection? Nahhh!

...To Save, There Is No Question
I had the old phone for almost 5 years, well protected in a slimline Otter Box case with a Gorilla Glass screen cover. It was never dropped more than 3 feet on a hard surface (4 times) or wet to the point of needing to take the case off. Prior to this, I went through 2 iPhones in 5 years. Nothing against Apple; I just beat them up because my job was very different.

I spent a large part of Saturday afternoon at my service provider, working my way through their staff until I finally talked to their 'techie' guy. I had already done everything listed on several websites and in YouTube videos, and the first 2 employees tried the same things I just tried, but hey, they need to qualify the damage before passing everything up to the next person. I didn't have anything else to do, so there I was.

Nothing worked.

Now while my core data like Phone List, Contacts, Email, Calendar and other programs were saved in a backup, I didn't have EVERYTHING set to copy over, such as all the pictures on my phone. Yes, I know it's stupid, but I always dumped them on my computer before this. My (poor) excuse is I've moved twice in 3 months and I don't have a desk with enough room for a mid-tower and the other things I need out of boxes, but it's still all my fault. IBacking up a phone is really simple to do, whether it's Android or Apple. Cnet is a wonderful source of info for techno dorks like myself, which is where I found one of many 'how to' guides. Here is a Cnet link to what needs to be done BEFORE you have problems.

How to back up your iPhone or Android phoneFrom the Cnet article linked above, here are the steps to save data from an Android phone:
  • Go to Settings.
  • Tap the search engine bar at the top and search for "Back up" (two words).
  • Choose the first option that shows up -- it varies depending on what type of Android phone you have.
  • If your phone shows "Back up to Google Drive" at the top of the screen, make sure it's toggled on, OR
  • If your phone shows "Back up my data" and "Automatic restore," make sure both are toggled on.

For an iPhone the steps are very similar:
    • Connect your device to a Wi-Fi network.
    • Go to Settings > [your name], and tap iCloud. If you're using iOS 10.2 or earlier, go to Settings, then scroll down and tap iCloud.
    • Tap iCloud Backup. If you're using iOS 10.2 or earlier, tap Backup. Make sure that iCloud Backup is turned on.
    • Tap Back Up Now. Stay connected to your Wi-Fi network until the process completes.
    Pretty simple!

    Several tech savvy people said that there may be a way to see if my pictures are salvageable, but I should be ready to spend some money. I'm afraid those pictures are gone.

    Now get up and do it yourself! Don't be like me and lose graduation pictures, birthday party shots and saved pictured from years ago.


    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.

    Thursday, June 20, 2019

    Pilot Bread

    When I bought the canned bread for last week's article, I also picked up a package of pilot bread and some light rye crisp bread for comparison. Both are shelf-stable breads that have been around for a long time; the brands I picked were both founded in 1919 by coincidence. Let's see how they stack up.

    Pilot Bread Crackers
    • The 2 pound box of Sailor Boy Pilot Bread Crackers costs $12, or $6/pound. Cheap saltines run around $3/pound, with some brands getting close to the price of the pilot bread. There are 38 crackers in a box.
    • About 80% of the Sailor Boy crackers are shipped to Alaska, where they are a staple food.
    • These are a round cracker about 3.5 inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick. Not something you're going to pop into your mouth and chew on.
    • A form of hardtack, they are mostly enriched wheat flour with salt, oil, yeast, and leavening added. This brand also uses artificial flavoring and a preservative. Hardtack has a long history as a staple of explorers and military forces on deployment.
    • The flavor is close to that of a normal saltine cracker, but the density is much higher. There's not a lot of air in these crackers, making them harder to bite into than a saltine.
    • Being a baked cracker, there are crumbs when you bite into them. The density makes them less fragile than a saltine, but they can make a mess if eaten dry.
    • The box they came in was made of thin cardboard and the crackers are in an open-top plastic bag with a twist-tie closure inside the box. The crackers themselves are sturdier than the packaging.
    • There was no “best by” date on the box, just a production code. Looking around the internet, I've seen claims of a 10 year shelf-life for this brand and up to 30 years for the brands that package them in steel #10 cans. For comparison, normal saltines have a shelf-life of 6-9 months.

    Wasa Light Rye Crispbreads
    • Wasa is a brand name, founded in Sweden in 1919 and more popular in northern Europe than in America. There are other brands out there, but I can get Wasa at my local grocery store.
    • The crispbreads are about 2” x 4” and 3/16” thick. There are 30 in a package.
    • The light rye is one of about a dozen offerings from Wasa. They even make a gluten-free crispbread.
    • A 9.5 oz package costs a little under $4 at the store. Amazon has them in 12-packs for about $3/pack. This is comparable to the cost of the pilot bread if you look at price per pound.
    • The “best by” date stamped on the package was about a year from now, which isn't great, but I believe they'd last quite a bit longer if properly stored. I think it's time to get out the vacuum sealer and experiment.
    • The ingredients list is short: rye flour and salt. I like simple things.
    • The rye flour isn't as processed as common wheat flour, making the bread less fragile than a cracker. It has fewer crumbs and is easier to bite into than the pilot bread, which is a plus.
    • Rye bread has a stronger flavor than common wheat bread, something that I've come to enjoy but that might take some getting used to for people who are used to tasteless white bread. The light rye is a good middle-of-the-road if you're not a fan of rye.
    • Rye is closely related to wheat and barley, so it does contain a form of gluten.

    Both the pilot bread and the crispbread are a good source of carbohydrates for energy, and they're sturdy enough to use with various spreads and toppings to make a quick meal. Both would make a good addition to a storage pantry, with the canned versions of pilot bread being the best bet for long-term storage.

    Wednesday, June 19, 2019

    Prudent Prepping: Prepping Pays Off

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

    I always try to live what I write: prepared to take care of myself and others, if and when necessary. I had my chance to show it last week!

    Right Place And Ready

    I was at work and about to punch out for lunch, when I saw a huddle around one of the tables. When I got over to where I usually sit, the reason for the crowd was obvious: one of the loaders has a pretty decent gouge on the inside of his knee. By the time I arrived, things were cleaned up and the bleeding had mostly stopped, but the attempts to cover the area were pretty poor. The closest 1st aid kit is always pretty slim on supplies, as if people take 2-3 times as much as needed.

    Funny, that.

     'Tis but a scratch
    As I sat down, the kid was trying to tape down a 4"x4" pad by wrapping 1/2" surgical tape around his leg. A very hairy leg. Not only wasn't the tape holding the pad in place, it wasn't sticking to his leg very well either. I got out my Trauma Pack that I talked about here and opened it up to help cover his cut...  and also to see how the contents looked, after the seal was damaged.

    The contents were fine, and after grabbing the gauze roll and winding it several times over the pad, we used the included duct tape to hold the end down. There was a little more fiddling with pad placement and a re-wrap of the gauze after this picture (right) was taken before the surgical tape was applied. This fix only needed to last 3 hours, until the kid's shift ended, and I suggested buying some non-stick pads and an ace-type bandage for better hold while at work. I kept the pair of gloves and put them into another kit and gave everything else to the kid.

    More Light For Less
    My friend just waved around his latest Amazon find, a $20 flashlight with most of the lumens and an adjustable focus!

    Now this isn't the lightest or smallest flashlight out, but for the price of $27.99 and all these features, I think it's a screaming deal! (Anker has released a newer replacement model that doesn't focus and is 500 lumens less, which I don't consider an improvement.)

    From the Amazon page:

    Anker Flashlight LC90

    • SUPER-BRIGHT: 900-lumen (max) Cree LED sweeps bright light over the length of about two football fields (660 ft / 200 m) and reaches nearly 1000 ft. Fully zoomable from wide to narrow beam. Features 5 adaptable settings: High / Medium / Low / Strobe / SOS.
    • LONG-LASTING: Up to 6 hours (Medium-beam mode) of powerful, non-diminishing brightness from the included premium rechargeable 3350mAh battery. LEDs boast an extended 50000-hour lifespan. Recharge in just 6 hours with a 1A adapter (not included) and the included Micro USB cable.
    • TOUGH & RELIABLE: IP65-rated water resistant and designed for use in heavy rain. Its durable aluminum body and shock-resistance endure rough handling.
    • SMART DESIGN: A pocket-friendly compact chassis with an anti-slip finish holds fast in your hand or stands on-end as an emergency lamp.
    • WHAT YOU GET: Anker Bolder LC90 Flashlight, 18650 3350mAh rechargeable battery, Micro USB cable, wrist strap, welcome guide, and our worry-free 18-month warranty and friendly customer service.

    This model doesn't come with a charger, but since it includes the widely available 18650 battery, most people (including myself) already have spare batteries that fit this as well as multiple chargers.

    Another downside is the 6.25 oz. weight. This is quite a bit more (almost twice) my Nightcore P12 reviewed here. The Nightcore doesn't have adjustable focus, but the Anker matches most of the other specs really well. Besides that, at 70%* of the Nightcore price, I'd not feel that bad if one disappeared or broke.

    * There is a discount code shown on the Amazon that will save you even more!

    Recap And Takeaway
    • Having gear close by, and knowing how to use it, is a good feeling to have.
    • While the Anker isn't exactly a throwaway, it certainly has quality features at a good price.
    • Nothing was purchased this week, but one of my previous Trauma Paks was moved into my lunch box to replace what I used.
    • I'm looking REALLY hard at at least one Anker LC90 from Amazon for $27.99 before 10% discount. 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 in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

    Tuesday, June 18, 2019

    Oooh, That Smell

    A good friend contacted me the other day. She said her sink drain had a terrible stink, and asked if there was anything I could do to help. I told her it was a problem I'd heard of before, and I had a few tricks up my sleeve that I would be happy to employ.

    A foul smelling sink is an indicator that something nasty is in your drain. Nasty things in your drain need to be killed and flushed out of that drain. There are a couple ways to do this, and with the smell she described, I rounded up the whole arsenal.

    The first trick I gave her was to pour boiling water down both of her drains. This is great for clearing things like grease and fat residues that can go rancid and smell horrid. Boiling water made a bit of a difference, but it definitely didn't fix the problem. When I got to her place, I confirmed that her sink really did smell as bad as she had described, so I broke out my $5 anti-smell arsenal and got to work.

    The first thing I did was pour about a pint of white vinegar down each drain, then I put her drain stoppers in place and filled each sink about half full with the hottest water her system would put out. I let the vinegar sit in the drains while I prepared the second half of my knockout combo.

    Plain old grocery store lemons make up the second half of this dynamic duo. By the time I finished cutting them in half, it was about time to pull the stoppers and flush the vinegar and anything it had broken loose.

    It's important to flush your pipes between different cleaning agents to prevent possible bad reactions. While lemons and vinegar are both mild acids and won't cause a problem, if you were to use an acid and a base cleaner, you could get a very impressive and possibly dangerous reaction. Other cleaners (notably things like ammonia and bleach) combine to make lethally toxic fumes. Flush your drains well to prevent dangerous chemistry!

    I squeezed the juice from the halved lemons down the non-disposal side, which led straight to her P-trap. We then cut the lemons into much smaller chunks and fed them to the garbage disposal one lemon at a time. (Any time you run your disposal, you want to run the sink faucet full-blast into it to flush the bits down the drain, and this process is no exception.) The acid and oil in the lemons make a wonderful cleaning agent, and the rind provides just enough abrasive to scrub away any lingering undesirable wastes.

    The combo cut the smell dramatically, and hopefully as she keeps running water down her drains it will continue to dissipate. If not, there are some commercial products that are far more aggressive. Most drains can be cleaned with this method though, and it is both very safe and cheaper than a large at Starbucks.


    Monday, June 17, 2019

    Thursday, June 13, 2019

    Canned Bread

    A long time ago, in a land not so far away, I was introduced to shelf-stable bread. The US Army had developed a method of baking bread inside a foil/plastic pouch called retort cooking that rendered the bread shelf-stable with a life measured in years. The small “loaves” were a bit bigger than a dinner roll, were generally dry, dense, and quite bland even for white bread. I haven't been able to track them down recently, but I wasn't very impressed with them so I haven't tried very hard.

    Having tested several brands of emergency rations and reported my findings here last year, I have been broadening my research of storeable foods with an emphasis on items that are closer to normal food. I'll leave the discussion of home canning and pressure cookers to my fellow authors who have more experience with them; I'm content with buying some of my stored food and trading for the homemade stuff.

    I've seen canned bread online a few times but have never seen it on a store shelf, so I hadn't had a chance to try it. I prefer to purchase as much as I can locally as cash sales are hard to track and I like to support local businesses to keep them around. You'd be amazed at the contraction of buying options I've witnessed in my hometown over the last few decades, so I do my part to keep the few remaining stores in business. Unfortunately, canned bread isn't a big seller around here, so I went on Amazon and found a brand to try.

    B&M (Burnham & Morrill) Brown Bread is my first test. B&M has used the same recipe since 1869 and they say the bread is slow-baked in brick ovens, I ordered a couple of cans and here's what I think of it.
    • 2 cans (16 ounces each) for about $12 is expensive bread. Cheap, store brand, white bread is about $3 for a 24 ounce loaf locally; the fancy breads come close to the price of the canned bread, but I have a hard time paying $6 for a small loaf sandwich bread so I don't buy the fancy stuff. I did notice that buying it by the case of 12 cans knocks the price down to $3/can, which is a lot better buy.
    • If you look carefully at the pictures to the right, you'll see the indentations from the ribs of the can on the bread after it has been removed from the can. The top is also rounded like a normal loaf and you can see spatters on the inside of the can above the bread. This shows that the bread is baked in the can, probably before the can was sealed. I didn't see any spatters or marks on the underside of the lid, so I'm betting the lids was put on after the can came out of the oven.
    • There was a noticeable “hiss” when I started to open the can, which tells me it was sealed while still warm or hot. The can itself is sturdy, an old style tinned steel can that can take some abuse.
    • The instructions said to remove both ends of the can and push the bread out but I was able to open one end and shake the “loaf” out. It is firm enough to hold its form without the can.
    • The cans I received in June of 2019 have a “best by” date of September 2020. Allowing for storage and transportation time, that means the factory gives it a shelf-life of 18 to 24 months. I'm sure it would be safe to eat, if properly stored, for quite a while longer than that.
    • The bread itself is dense, moist, and not white. I've eaten a lot of different breads over the years, and like any food it is as varied as the people who bake it. The closest I can come to describing the flavor is similar to a sweet dessert bread. The rye flour gives it a distinct flavor.
    • The dark brown color comes from the addition of a healthy dose of molasses. I personally like the flavor of molasses, but I know it turns some people off. The molasses flavor is mild, not even as strong as some molasses cookies I've enjoyed.
    • Molasses is a great source of iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and manganese. Farmers used to set out containers of it for grazing cows to lick, just as a supplemental source of minerals, but the engineered feeds have replaced that. According to the label, this bread is a fair source of iron and calcium.
    • It is bread, so the main ingredient is wheat. Sorry, gluten-intolerant readers, this one isn't for you.
    • The ingredients list is surprisingly simple: water, wheat, molasses, sugar, rye flour, whey, corn meal, baking soda, buttermilk, salt, and oil. No chemical preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors, and no emulsifiers or conditioners to change the texture. I like simple.

    For something to have on the shelf, this would make a good change of pace to break the flavor monotony of a limited diet and could even be used as a treat if you like the flavor. It might do well as a breakfast food or snack; I've seen a lot of comments suggesting it toasted with a bit of butter. The shelf-life is what I consider minimal (two years isn't that long) but it's better than a plastic bag of bread from the store. For camping or hiking, the sturdy can and dense consistency would place it in the “good” category of choices for food.

    Wednesday, June 12, 2019

    Prudent Prepping: Summer Has Arrived

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

    If the saying goes 'Spring has sprung', then this year I'd have to say that Summer crashed the party. It's been over 95° for the last 4 days, and over 100° yesterday and today; on Monday we had two short power outages just far enough apart that all the digital readouts weren't reset when the second one hit. After that, it was decided to just wait it out.

    Beating The Heat 
    Honest, low humidity
    I know that the San Francisco area is supposedly known for mild weather, but that's only close to the water. I'm over a set of hills on the hot, inland part of the Bay Area, and we have to plan and deal with the weather differently than those close to water. Fortunately for us, our humidity really is very low, so all that 'well, it's dry heat' really is true compared to most of the country. (I'm not talking about you, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona!) Today, even though it's 104, the humidity is 9%. This is much lower than normal, with 40% being closer to average.

    First, stay out of the sun. As stupid as it sounds, don't go out if you don't have to.

    If you do need to be out, wear a hat with a wide enough brim to shade your whole head.

    Wearing light colors will help keep you cooler than dark shades.

    Most importantly...

    Drink Lots of Water
    From the CDC:

    Drinking water before, during, and after physical activity is one way to keep your body’s air conditioner working. Keep these tips in mind to help your body stay cool:
    • Top off your tank a few hours before you hit the court, the field, or your own backyard by drinking about two cups of cold water.
    • Keep a water bottle handy to guzzle during water breaks, halftime, or time outs. Try to drink about 10 ounces — that’s about 10 large gulps from your water bottle — every 15-20 minutes.

    Our very own Lokidude wrote about make-your-own sports drink in this post, so you can save money and flavor the mix however you want.

    In The Heat Of The Night 
    Running the air conditioning can be expensive. Last year at my old place, the jerk roommate cranked the thermostat down to 68 during the day one month. This practice stopped  when the electricity bill came and it was $500!

    There are plenty of alternatives for keeping things cool, such as fans, closing off windows in south-facing rooms with heavy drapes, or making a makeshift swamp cooler, like this:

    Even with this using electricity, compared to your air conditioner you're saving money!

    Recap And Takeaway
    • If it seems like it's too hot to be out in the sun, it is.
    • Nothing was purchased this week, other than 2 cases of water to take with me to work.

    * * *

    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, June 11, 2019

    9V and Steel Wool Fire, Utah Style

    Recently there's been a fair bit of discussion about starting a fire with a 9 volt battery and steel wool. This is my method. It's quick, it's reliable, and it gets hot.

    Some notes before I cut to the video.

    1. The battery still showed 9 volts on a multimeter after the video, so you can do this a few times on a single battery. 
    2. Don't stomp out fire with your good boots, especially when they're fairly new. It's an instinctive thing, but fight the urge. This is two pairs in a row where I've made that mistake...


    Friday, June 7, 2019

    Through a Lens, Clearly

    Not actually Erin.
    & is used with permission.
    According to the Vision Council of America, approximately 75% of adults use some sort of vision correction. If you're one of those people (and statistically you probably are), you need backup glasses for your bug-out bag.

    For some of us, spare glasses are a matter of life or death. Without my glasses, I cannot see the words on my opthamologist's eye chart. Please note:  I did not say I couldn't read them, I said I could not see them; the eye chart is simply a greyish blur to me. My uncorrected vision is so bad that in a survival situation, I cannot discern threats past 10, maybe 12 feet.

    If you're lucky, you only need glasses for up-close work. That's fine for macro-scale survival, but terrible if you're trying to perform detail-oriented tasks such as starting a fire, or determining if berries are poisonous or not, or even just reading your survival manual.

    The point is, you need spare glasses for your bug-out preps. You might be able to get away with putting your old glasses into your bag when you get new ones if your prescription didn't change much and your lenses are in good condition; however, I don't have that luxury. I've been using the same frames since 2003, and the arms are corroding from where they touch the skin on my temples. Meanwhile, the lenses which I've had for 3-4 years are scratched and the anti-glare coating is flaking off. Additionally, my left eye has degraded such that I new need prisms in the lens to correct my astigmatism.

    In short, not only do I need new glasses but I also need new backup glasses too. However, buying glasses without vision insurance is expensive. So how does a prepper on a thin budget (like me) make do?

    Get Your Prescription in Writing
    A regular eye exam is surprisingly affordable even without insurance, usually between $30 and $40. Mine was just a bit over $40 but included pupil dilation, checks for glaucoma and cataracts, and determining that I needed prisms.

    Once that was done, I asked for my prescription in writing, telling the doctor that I needed it in case I had to evacuate for a hurricane and his records were lost in the disaster. My doctor had no problem with this; after all, I paid him for the results and so I was entitled to the records.

    Don't Buy the Lenses and Frames at the Office
    Every single ophthalmologist that I've visited has been paired with an eyeglass store of some sort. While I admit that their selections are stylish, be aware that you have other options. Other less expensive options.

    It may be worth it, however, to try on various frames to see what you like and what you don't like. You also may need to have your pupil distance measured so that the lenses have the proper focal point, or perhaps your old lenses have an odd base curve. If this is the case, make note of this on your prescription.

    Select your Frames Online
    Now that you know what you want, go online and look for frames. Zenni Optical has been an open secret among preppers for years, with frames starting as low as $6.95 and fashionable choices going up to as much as -- brace yourselves -- $35.

    Why are they so much less? Because you aren't paying for brand names. What you need to realize is that eyeglasses are treated as fashion and thus command higher prices based upon the designer. For example, frames with Ralph Lauren's Polo branding will cost more than those without his name on them.

    Even if you decide to buy a set of fashionable frames, you don't need to pay the same price for your backups. Think of them as the eyeglass version of a donut spare tire.

    Buy your Lenses Online
    Now that you know what style frames you want, you know what shape lenses to get. This is where the bulk of your money goes when buying glasses at a store, and the same holds true here, but in much smaller amounts.

    There are many online lens stores, but I like Replacement Lens Express for two reasons. First, it puts the prices on its homepage so you can see at a glance what the lenses will cost you  (a necessity if you have a high-power or complex prescription). Second (and again, right there on the front page), it says "We specialize in fitting new eyeglass lenses into your existing frames," which means you don't have to compromise the frames you want in order to get the lenses you need. The company also has a great reputation online.

    Now that I have my prescription, it's time for me to go shopping for glasses: a pair for my face, a pair for my GHB, and a pair for my BOB. I may not be able to get all three right away, but in time I'll have a full set for Just In Case.

    Thursday, June 6, 2019

    Food for Thought

    For those of you who are new, I work in an agricultural industry in the upper Midwest. We grow a lot of corn and soybeans around here and I have daily contact with the farmers that grow what we all eat.

    Things don't look good this year.
    • We had a harsh winter, with cold temperatures and snow unlike any winter in the last 30 years.
    • Winter set in early last fall, cutting off the normal fertilizer season in late November. This means that the ground needed to be fertilized this spring for a crop to grow to its best potential.
    • Winter changed to spring overnight, leading to massive flooding along most of the minor and major rivers. Rain and snow melt can't flow through snow on the ground, leading to water backing up in tributaries and drainage systems.
    • A wet fall and bitterly cold winter drove the frost deep into the soil. It takes a lot of sunshine to thaw out dirt that is frozen four feet below the surface. You can't do anything with frozen soil.
    • Spring stayed cool this year, delaying the start of field work. There are minimum soil temperatures for things like applying certain fertilizers or pesticides and planting seeds.
    • We've seen roughly 50% more rain than normal in the five states around me from March to April. After the wet fall last year saturated the ground, the rain is not soaking in and is either standing in the fields or running off into already full rivers.
    • The combination of frequent rain and saturated soil has curtailed the time available to do anything in the fields that aren't still under water. The heavy-duty tow trucks have been kept busy with tractors getting stuck in fields.
    • The Army Corps of Engineers is still mismanaging the rivers and dams. Several sources are predicting a repeat of their fiasco of 2011 that wiped out a few million acres of farm production.
    • I have several customers who have thousands of acres of farmland that are still flooded. Some of them are not going to be able to plant anything this year, which means no harvest and no income. How long could you go without any income but the same rent/mortgage payments?

    All of the above have combined to produce a bad year for crop production. The USDA keeps track of planting progress across the country and publishes a weekly report here. For clarification, they refer to their numbers as an estimate, but they are not guessing at the percentages. Roughly 3,600 people or companies who have frequent contact with farmers and/or can do in-person field inspections send in a weekly report from their area and those numbers are combined to produce the USDA report. My company is one of those reporters, every location sends a weekly estimate to corporate and they forward them to the USDA.

    To summarize the rather lengthy report:
    • Corn is normally 80% planted by now. This year it's less than 50%. What is planted isn't sprouting well,
    • Soybeans are normally about 50% planted, this year we're under 20%. Again, what is in the ground isn't growing well.
    • Rice is normally 90% planted, this year it's under 75%.
    • Spring wheat, cotton, peanuts, oats, barley, and sorghum are about normal for percentage planted, but were planted late.

    Corn takes 90-120 days from planting to harvest, so we're running out of time to get it planted if we expect to harvest it before winter sets in again. Beans grow a bit faster and can be planted later, but economic conditions (mainly tariffs) have depressed the price to where farmers can't make a profit from growing them. We don't grow much of the other crops in my area, but I have talked to people from areas that do and they're in the same situation. Everything is late and not growing very well due to lack of sunlight and too much water.

    So, what does this all mean to someone who lives in a city and gets their food from a grocery store? You're going to be paying a lot more for your food in the near future. Stock up on the essentials while they're still fairly cheap because prices are already starting to climb on the futures markets (We update our price board at least once a day). If we have another wet fall as predicted, we could lose some of the limited crop that will be grown this year, further reducing supplies. 

    We're about one bad year away from having serious problems feeding everyone that relies on the US farmers. That could lead to interesting times in some areas and starvation in others. Add in the swine flu in China that just wiped out more hogs that the entire US produces in a year, over a million calves lost to flooding in Nebraska alone, and crop failures in Australia, Italy, France, Mexico, Argentina, and the Philippines, and you might see why I think food prices are going to rise rapidly and the potential for unrest around the world is going to rise with them.

    Wednesday, June 5, 2019

    Prudent Prepping: Worn Gear and Other Things

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

    I was prepping for a future fishing trip when I saw some worn gear. Not just any gear, either, but something really important -- the first aid kit I carry every day.

    What Happened?
    I went to clean out my lunchbox and discovered that the Adventure Medical Kits Trauma Pak I carry developed a small tear in the packaging. I can't get a picture to show where the tear is, but right below the band where the ziploc section joins the bag and directly at the edge of the package (left, where the edge of the bag starts to curve) the bag creased and developed a small hole.

    I think it happened from moving the pack around and accidentally folding the top back and forth too many times. I blame myself and not the packaging for the problem, but if a damaged package can happen in less than a year since I first mentioned buying this, then everyone should look at their pack to see if it is still sealed.

    Even though my pack never got wet, I'm concerned about the bandages and pads inside the pouch and don't know if they are still in good shape or not. I'm willing to keep everything in the pouch and not tear the seal right now, since I plan only to open it in an emergency, which means that competent medical personnel will be cleaning up and treating whomever I slap-dashed a bandage upon and doctors can sort out any possible contamination in the hospital. This isn't to say that I discount keeping clean and sterile first aid gear; just that this is now going into my car kit where it won't get flexed around any longer.

    Since I really like the kit, I've ordered 2 more this week: one as a replacement for my lunchbox and one to go into my camping gear, specifically in my backpack.

    Fire Ladder Follow-up
    I now have a fire ladder to get out of a 2nd floor window in my new home. I was looking at the various ladders and I decided on the Kidde #468093. It's compact, easy to store, and so lightweight that my housemate's girlfriend can carry and use it. I wanted to take it out of the box and demo it for them, but given the way it's loaded into the box and how it looks to be designed to deploy, I don't think there is any chance I'd get it back in the box. Besides, this model is designed to be a one-time use tool.

    Kidde 468093 KL-2S Two-Story Fire Escape Ladder
    From the Amazon page:
    • Easy to use. Attaches quickly to most common windows
    • Flame resistant, durable and sturdy ladder
    • Strong and durable ladder tested to 1,000 pounds
    • Tangle free design fast and easy to deploy with anti-slip rungs
    • No assembly or tools are required; 5-year warranty
    I'm happy with the specs on this ladder, since the more expensive ladders aren't rated any better; they're just a bit wider with different step designs and stand-off legs.

    The Takeaway
    • Check your equipment, even if you haven't used it lately. Unknown damage to your supplies could leave you short in an emergency.
    • Follow up with everyone to be certain they know where all emergency supplies are and the basics on how to use everything.

    The Recap


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    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, June 4, 2019

    Bug Off!

    I have a love-hate relationship with mosquitoes: they love to bite me, and I hate them for it.

    Spring came a bit late to Utah this year, but when it finally arrived, it did so in huge ways, going from 60 and massive daily rain to high 70s and sunshine in about a week. All of that water mixed with a bit of warmth and the open spaces I love, makes for a bumper mosquito crop.

    In addition to pain and irritation from their bites, insects like mosquitoes and ticks can carry diseases, including potentially fatal ones. While abatement efforts can curb populations, and candles, torches and other devices can keep them away from fixed locations, you're going to need more personal protection if you're moving around at all.

    One of the best ways to prevent bites is to cover up, as skin which can't be touched can't be bitten. When possible, long sleeves and long pants cut back dramatically on the real estate available. However, hot weather and other situations can limit the amount of skin you cover. In those situations, you need chemical repellent.

    (All information comes from the University of Indiana Health Center.)

    DEET is the traditional chemical insect repellent in the USA. It is inexpensive and definitely effective. Unfortunately, DEET is proven to absorb through the skin and can lead to health concerns with heavy use. It also smells terrible and will melt certain plastics; I have seen this firsthand with the handle on a fishing rod. It was surprising and unpleasant, to say the least.

    Picaridin is a newer alternative to DEET. It is odorless and will not absorb through the skin. It also doesn't leave a greasy or oily residue, nor will not melt plastic material. Testing has shown it to be as effective as DEET with the same concentrations.

    Both Picaridin and DEET are available in liquid or aerosol form. I like the aerosol for general use, as it makes application quick and easy. The small liquid bottles fit nicely into fishing and hunting packs though, and travel very well.

    Both repellents have a percentage concentration marked on the container. For a long time, I believed that higher percentages repelled insects more strongly. Instead, my research taught me that the higher percentage concentration simply lasts longer between applications; a concentration of 30% will give at least 4 hours of effective work, while keeping any chemical absorption to a minimum.

    While DEET and Picaridin are applied directly to the skin, Permethrin is used to treat clothing. It binds to clothing fibers and will last for multiple washings. You can treat your favorite outdoors clothing weeks or months in advance and it will remain ready until you need it. This window of protection can be extended even further by storing treated clothing in sealed bags.

    Use the right combination of repellents to keep itching and illness away.


    Monday, June 3, 2019

    The Fine Print

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