Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

Chaplain Tim has the day off to spend time with his family like the rest of us. Regular posting resumes tomorrow.

In the meantime, please enjoy these two holiday favorites written by the
Whatever you do, have a great day filled with fun, good, fellowship and family.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Prudent Prepping: November Buffet Post

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 usual round up of ideas that I don't think would make a stand alone post.

Check Up, part 2
As I mentioned in this blog post earlier this month, I'm getting everything in and on my body checked out by doctors. One of the last things to be looked over were my teeth; I've been saving my money for this work, because while the dental coverage is better than what many of my friends have, it isn't good enough to cover all the work I need done to save my teeth.

Many reports say not chewing food well can affect your health, and having teeth seems to be the first and most important step as far as I'm concerned.

Shopping Find
While calling on one of my local stores, I found this, the Everbilt 26 qt. High-Performance Cooler with Lockable Lid:

A Home Depot store-brand, heavy duty cooler!

From the Home Depot webpage:
  • Keeps Ice for up to 5 days, great for outdoor activities
  • Durable T-handle latches keeps lid secure
  • Virtually unbreakable rotomolded 1-piece construction
And the best part: this cooler is $78.97! At 26 qts it's a little bit bigger than, but suspiciously similar to, a popular brand that has fallen out of favor with many outdoors folk. This store-brand price is 60% of that famous labels' 20 qt. cooler while having 30% more volume.

This shows as being "In Stock" in my local stores, but that could vary from region to region. I have a standard Igloo cooler that I take with me when I go camping and fishing, and having something that would keep my food cold longer is a bonus. I don't have a problem with the size, since I don't go out with more than one person and when there's a group, everyone has their own ice chests.

Check it out!

Personal Safety
In a Blue Collar Prepping Facebook posting this week, the question was asked, "What should I do in a riot?"

Several of us have posted about what to do in a riot/civil unrest, with a post of mine from August 2017 talking about what to do if in a crowd. I think the most important factor is not to be in a riot in the first place. That can be pretty hard to avoid if something happens spontaneously, but the most recent demonstrations that turned violent were advertised days and sometimes weeks in advance.

Read the whole thing, but the high points are:
  • Start walking and don't stop. 
  • Don't run. That will draw attention to you, both from the cops and those around you. 
  • Look for the edge of the crowd and make your way there.
  • Get to the edge of the crowd, but don't try to walk against the flow - that could get you knocked down. Travel at a diagonal to the direction the crowd is going until you get out of the main body, hopefully well away from the agitators and potential violence. 

Recap And Takeaway
  • Nothing was purchased this week, and I don't see Santa bringing too many prepping items to me this year.
  • My health is going to be my Christmas gift to myself.
  • The Home Depot Everbilt 26 qt. Cooler seems like a great buy at $78.97. Check to see if it is available in your area. If not, most items can be Special Ordered and with a qualifying purchase, shipping is free!

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, November 26, 2019

Easy Baked Potatoes

Potatoes are good, but take time and effort to cook. There's an easier way to do it, though.


Monday, November 25, 2019

DIY Space Blanket Poncho

Doing It Yourself is the best way to do things, especially if you already have the necessary tools and know-how!

Godspeed to you all.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Product Review: the Klymit Cush

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I'm a big fan of Klymit products. They make excellent air mattresses that are both sturdy and affordable; their Static V has earned a place in my bug out bag.

The Klymit Cush ($9 with Prime shipping from Amazon) is an interesting product in that it's a pillow, but not traditionally shaped like one. You can use it for your head -- in fact, the circular indentations are for your ears so that the pillow can be placed inside a mummy sleeping bad, although based on my own (not small) head measurements it's about 8 inches too long for that -- but what I've found is that it's perfect for a seat cushion.

Please allow me my vanity in not telling you how much I weigh; suffice it to say that I weigh more than 150 lbs and not once have I worried that the Cush will burst under my weight. Mind you, I sit down on it gently; flopping onto it might be too much for the poor thing! But I have been using the Cush for over a month now, and not once have I feared that it would rupture under me. When I fold it double the "ear holes" are perfectly aligned for my ischium, which are the bones of the pelvis that are covered by the buttocks -- the "sit bones", if you will.

It makes an idea portable seat cushion for long plane trip. It inflates quickly with only a few breaths, deflates just as quickly, and rolls up into a package 9.5" L x 2" W x 0.5" H. It actually arrived in a rectangular stuff sack measuring 6.5" L x 4.5" W x I don't recall how thick but less than an inch, so if you needed it smaller and had the patience to fold it up you could get it to where it's just slightly larger than your cellphone. Because it's mostly air, when deflated it weighs less than 3 ounces.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars
I didn't give it 5 stars because it's too big to do what it's meant to do, which is be a pillow inside a mummy bag. That said, it's great at doing everything else, and its longer size means you can fold it up for extra thickness, or wrap the ends up to cradle your hips.

It's inexpensive, it's sturdy, it's comfortable, and it deploys and stows quickly. It definitely has a place in your preps, either in your car, your camping gear, or your get home back. If you travel a lot, you definitely need one.

Dear FTC: I paid for this item with my own money. Go away. 

Also, call your mother. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Radiation Detection Kit

A few weeks back I wrote about finding a folder with paperwork concerning the fallout shelter in the building I was moved into at work. I wrote about the food, water, and sanitation supplies that were placed here in 1962, all of which were scrapped long ago.

The fallout shelter paperwork that I found at my new place of work also included mention of a "Radiation Detection Kit, CD V-777-2". This was one of about four different kits issued, depending on the rated occupancy of the fallout shelter; the "-2" kit was the smallest, designed for shelters capable of holding up to 50 people. One of the notes in the file of fallout shelter paperwork was a memo that the kit was sent to the local doctor on 8 Oct 1963 for storage and safe-keeping because he was the "Civil Defense Doctor" for this area. Since the meters required calibration every 5 years or so, and they were the most expensive part of the supplies provided, it makes sense that they kept them outside of the shelter. Dr. Little has long since passed away, but I would have loved to talk to him about his role.

While digging through one of the back rooms, however, I actually found the radiation detection kit still in its box. One of the manuals and the D-cell batteries were gone, but everything else is still there and the handheld detector had been calibrated about 30 years ago. The calibration sticker surprised me; I didn't know that anyone was keeping up with CD supplies in 1990 since the whole project had been mostly abandoned by the mid-70s when FEMA took over from the Office of Civil Defense and the focus of their spending was switched to natural disasters and away from surviving a nuclear war. While researching the meters, I found that at least two states (Iowa and Texas) still have facilities to maintain and calibrate them, and there is at least one private calibration company.

This is the box I found, "fresh" from the state maintenance shop. Inside was a "survey" meter for checking the radiation on surfaces, and a bag of personal dosimeters (and the charger) for checking the total dosage a wearer had received. Both were only useful for measuring Gamma radiation, so the easier to stop Alpha and Beta would have gone undetected.

The survey meter is a Victoreen Model V-715, a high-range unit that was useful for finding gross contamination. With a low range of 0-0.5 Roentgen/hr and a high range of 0-500 Roentgen/hr, these meters were designed for very high levels of radioactivity. You can see the calibration sticker near the range selector switch.

The dosimeters are the newer V-742 model, with a range of 0-200 Roentgen, which is quite a large dose. (200 Roentgen = 1.75 Sv, which will cause severe radiation poisoning and possibly death.) Erin covered radiation doses very thoroughly in a series of posts titled "Radiation for Dummies", so I won't repeat it. I covered how they work in a post that you can find here.

There were also a plastic strap for carrying the survey meter over a shoulder and a manual inside the box. The manual covers the operation of the two types of meters and is written in typical governments form.

I'm not completely sure what I'm going to do with that box of toys. I may tuck them back in a corner of the back room for some other explorer to find after I retire, or I may check to see if a local museum might be interested in adding them to their collection. I'm still trying to contact the owner of the online Civil Defense Museum to see if anything I've found is unique enough to add to his collection; he has a lot of information about a rather interesting time in our recent history.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Disaster Prep, pt. The Latest

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

There is another PG&E power shutdown starting at 4 am tomorrow that, lucky for me, does not include my county. As of 15 minutes ago, most of the local counties have been dropped from the potential shutoff list. This doesn't mean that they won't be added back; just that as of now, the power will not be off starting at 4 am Wednesday. Now is not the time to relax or stand idly by.

Making A Difference
I have friends making serious plans and following through with them. I've been telling them about prepping even before I started blogging here; it just took another set of fires that are even closer to finally get them doing something about taking care of themselves. Besides pointing them here, the need for really simple, easy to read info was required by one friend with pre-teen kids. The book I mentioned the other week will work for my friend, but that isn't really what she wanted for them. There are many different places to start, but since these are younger kids that I know are pretty sharp, getting them involved in the process seemed like a good idea.

Since earthquakes are common here, planning for a generic disaster sounded like a better idea to Mom than talking about fires; the kids have felt and seen small earthquakes, but there haven't been too many small fires here lately. One place I don't think I've mentioned before is the government site . The chapters are easy to navigate and cover the basics in a format that anyone can follow. The pages oriented towards kids are just one example of how nice this site is built.

Fair Warning! There is quite a bit of information to go through, and I have to say there is very little fluff that I've seen! Here is the page directed to kids and here are a few of the chapters:
Be a Ready Kid!

Emergencies and disasters can be scary, but there are ways to help you stay safe before, during, and even after a disaster. Here, you can play games to become a Disaster Master and learn how to build an emergency kit. You will meet our friend Pedro the Penguin, who will teach you all about staying safe. You will even be able to make your own emergency plan with your family!
 There is a section for very young children and also a Spanish language section.

Build a Kit
When making an emergency kit, it’s important to know what your family already has and what you still need. Sit down with your family and use this checklist to decide what else you need to make sure you and your family are prepared for any emergency.
Digging into the Build a Kit page, it shows all the normal prepping items for Bugging Out, with the addition of an interactive Build A Kit Game to make a scary task into something fun. I think that idea will be really helpful for these kids, who are very responsible around their house now.

Mm mom is reading my copy of When The Grid Goes Down, so I think I need to do what I said previously and buy some copies to pass out, either dead tree or eBook version.

Recap And Takeaway
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but I will be buying 2 copies of When The Grid Goes Down from Amazon: $4.49 eBook or $14.95 paperback  with Prime.
  • It doesn't matter why you start; it matters that you did, and then follow through to take care of your family.

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, November 19, 2019

White Gas and You

Most folks are familiar with propane as an inexpensive, effective fuel for camping stoves and lanterns; however, it is also stored under pressure and requires special containers that are either heavy and bulky or not reusable. White gas is an alternative that generates less waste and isn't stored in a pressurized form.

White gas, commonly known as Coleman Fuel, is a liquid fuel that bears very many similarities to unleaded gasoline. Its two key difference are that it is a lower-octane fuel than gasoline, meaning it burns a bit more readily, and that it has none of the detergent additives that gasoline contains.

White gas is sold in gallon cans with a screw on lid, and is easily stored in a shed or garage. It's at least as safe to store and transport as propane, if not safer; if a white gas container leaks, it evaporates as quickly as gasoline, but if a propane container leaks, it will vent propane until it is empty, creating a potentially hazardous situation especially in enclosed areas. Coleman fuel can also be transferred to smaller containers, which is very useful for backpackers and other folks concerned about space and weight.

Propane burning appliances have the advantage of supreme simplicity: you simply attach the propane source, open the valve, and light the burner. It takes more time to type or read that sentence than it does to be generating light or heat. The liquid nature of white gas, though, requires the appliance tank to be pumped up to pressure as well as preheating to vaporize the fuel. These added steps take a bit more time and practice, but quickly become second nature.

White gas stoves are available in a smaller form factor than most propane stoves. Due to the preheating of the fuel, they also work great in cold environments. As an example of the small form factor, consider the MSR Whisperlite International. While the Whisperlite can run on unleaded gasoline or kerosene, white gas is by far the superior option as the other fuels burn dirtier and have an odor that white gas does not. Also, white gas requires far less maintenance and upkeep than the alternative fuels.

Propane isn't the only fuel out there, and in many ways it is beaten by the competition.


Monday, November 18, 2019

A Little Fun Practice Shelter Assembly

All work and no play makes for some psychotic little preppers, so I decided to make an igloo out of cargo pallets.

Godspeed to you all.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Cordage from Soda Bottles

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Cordage (which is a fancy prepper of way of saying "string and/or rope") is one of humanity's oldest inventions and is still very important to this day. Without it, you wouldn't be able to tie your shoes, floss your teeth, or tie things together without resorting to glue. Consequently, it's important to have in a disaster or survival scenario, because of its many uses: making rope, weaving nets, building a shelter, lashing items to a pack or travois, etc.

Despite how common rope is, and how light 550 paracord can be, it's difficult to have enough of it in a long-term scenario. It's possible to make your own, but that usually involves the processing of plant fibers and braiding them. There is, however, a much simpler and easier method available to anyone in the industrialized world, and that is converting plastic bottles into cordage. Such plastic is tough, can be found most everywhere, and because plastic bottles are seen as garbage the materials are essentially free.

Here's Creek Stewart demonstrating how a knife and a tree stump can be used to create plastic bottle cordage out in the field.

However, as cool as that is, it's not always convenient to make a jig out of a tree stump. That's why the Stringamajig exists.

As the name suggests, the Stringamajig is a jig for making string out of plastic bottles. It's simply a portable version of the system Creek used -- in fact, it was commissioned by him for an Apocabox -- and to make it work you can tie it to a stationary object, or simply hold it in your hand, and pull on the starter tab to make cordage.

The Stringamajig is lightweight, sturdy, and simple to maintain. It's also affordable, at $5 per unit (plus $7.95 shipping, unfortunately). While you may not need it in your Bug Out or Get Home bag, it certainly deserves a place in your disaster preps and possibly your INCH gear.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Low Tech

While I'm a fairly tech-savvy person and use a couple of different digital formats to read books, I still enjoy sitting down with an actual, printed paper book. Certain reference books and maps are better in physical form than in digital; it's much easier to flip to the correct section than trying to scroll through pages on a small screen.

Printed books are also less dependent on electricity and the format is well-defined and stable. Digital media standards change, and without the proper hardware/firmware/software the data is unavailable. I have several boxes of floppy disks that I had to transfer data from a few years ago, and the CDs and DVDs that I moved the information to are rapidly becoming obsolete.

Archiving digital information is difficult without a lot of equipment and constant electrical power. 
  • Magnetic storage media like floppy disks, magnetic tapes, and hard drives will reliably hold data for about 10-20 years at best. The mechanisms for reading that data may not last as long, which is another thing to consider.
  • Optical storage like CDs and DVDs are highly variable, depending on the properties of the disc. Recordable disks use a dye that changes color when exposed to a laser of the correct frequency; this dye has a 5-10 year shelf-life under good conditions and heat, humidity, and UV light will shorten that life rapidly. Manufactured, or “pressed”, disks have a metal layer that is physically changed as the data is stored. They are sturdier than the recordable disks, but still have a shelf-life of only 20-30 years.
  • Digital e-books are handy if you have a reader, as you can carry a library around in your bag, but the formats (.mobi, .pdf, etc.) aren't stable yet and you need electricity to be able to access the data. There have also been cases where the publisher remotely deleted books from users' machines -- sort of a modern-day book burning. I use my tablet/e-book apps for ephemeral titles; fiction and news mostly, nothing I actually need to save for later.
  • Books, if printed on good paper and given decent care, can last for centuries. I own several reference books that are more than 100 years old and the information is still readable. Daylight or a good candle or two is all you need to be able to retrieve the data in a book.

All of the above has been covered here before, but I ran across a service last month that brought it to the front of my attention. One of my frequently visited sites on the Internet is Low-Tech Magazine. The entire website is designed to use as little electricity as possible, from the choice of fonts and picture quality to the static page design and the lack of animation (and ads). The webmaster has even managed to build a website that is 100% solar-powered and located in his home. High-tech but with a small footprint, and he's keeping the site online over 90% of the time.

I can ignore the low-level politics and climate-change rhetoric on the site because it covers old and new technology from a unique perspective. Some of the links in the header take you to “no-tech” and obsolete technologies pages, which may prompt some thought about projects you have in mind.

Since the web-pages are small and don't have any dynamic links or animations, the owner decided to publishthe last six years of articles in book form. He uses Lulu, a print-on-demand service, so he doesn't have to stock or ship anything, which is handy since he's based in Spain. Lulu works with printers around the world, so your book will be printed and shipped from the source closest to you. I ordered a copy and it was printed and shipped via the cheapest carrier in about two weeks. The total cost was about $30 for a 710 page book printed on heavy, acid-free paper, which is a fair price. I was actually surprised at the heavy paper, as I was expecting something similar to paperback or photocopy paper.

The topics covered in the 37 articles originally published between 2012 and 2018 are mostly old tech and are based on minimizing power consumption, a topic that might be of interest to any of us planning or building a more self-reliant home. Here's the table of contents, but remember that you can look the articles up online and read them to see if it is something you want to have a print copy of.

  • How to Build a Low-tech Website?
  • We Can't Do It Ourselves
  • Ditch the Batteries: Off-grid Compressed Air Energy Storage
  • History and Future of the Compressed Air Economy
  • How Much Energy Do We Need?
  • Bedazzled by Energy Efficiency
  • How to Run the Economy on the Weather
  • How (Not) to Run a Modern Society on Solar and Wind Power Alone
  • Could We Run Modern Society on Human Power Alone?
  • Heat Storage Hypocausts: Air Heating in the Middle Ages
  • Why the Office Needs a Typewriter Revolution
  • The Curse of the Modern Office
  • How to Get Your Apartment Off the Grid
  • Slow Electricity: The Return of DC Power?
  • Power Water Networks
  • Fruit Walls: Urban Farming in the 1600s
  • Reinventing the Greenhouse
  • How to Build a Low-tech Internet
  • The 4G Mobile Internet that's Already There
  • Why We Need a Speed Limit for the Internet
  • How Sustainable is Stored Sunlight?
  • How Sustainable is PV Solar Power?
  • Restoring the Old Way of Warming: Heating People, not Places
  • The Revenge of the Circulating Fan
  • If We Insulate Our Houses, Why Not Our Cooking Pots?
  • Well-Tended Fires Outperform Modern Cooking Stoves
  • Modular Cargo Cycles
  • High Speed Trains are Killing the European Railway Network
  • Power from the Tap: Water Motors
  • Back to Basics: Direct Hydropower
  • The Mechanical Transmission of Power (3): Endless Rope Drives
  • The Mechanical Transmission of Power (2): Jerker Line Systems
  • The Mechanical Transmission of Power (1): Stangenkunst
  • How to make everything ourselves: open modular hardware
  • Electric velomobiles: as fast and comfortable as automobiles, but 80 times more efficient
  • Cargo cyclists replace truck drivers on European city streets
  • The solar envelope: how to heat and cool cities without fossil fuels

There is a decidedly urban European slant to the articles, but the information is useful anywhere. I suggest that you at least give the website a look and check out the archives, as they're planning on putting out a second book with older articles in the near future.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Checkup

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

The weather is finally changing here, just not as fast as some of you seem to be experiencing! Friends in Minnesota said they didn't have their normal two weeks of fall this year; it lasted a weekend, and then went right to winter. Reports from all over are saying if you normally have snow, expect some far sooner than normal if you don't already have some. Since the weather is changing, my preps will be changing too.

Changing Up
What is my normal winter gear? I add a wool sweater, rain gear and extra socks to my GHB. Water and food stay the same as last year, since I'm normally now a manageable one day walk from home. Rain gear and socks go in because it will rain here, eventually.

Checking Up
This is also the time I go over my car for winterizing fixes. I don't usually see temperatures below freezing, but I do travel to the mountains, so window washer fluid that is rated for just a little below freezing is on my shopping list.

Where I live now has very large pine trees that drop sap and pine needles pretty much all year, and so my car has little sticky droplets all over the body and the windows. I have to use a tar and pitch remover before washing and waxing or else I'm just covering up the mess. The windows are especially bad when sap is on them, since light hitting the drops wants to start a microscopic light show in my face. In the heat, the drops soften a little and just smear around: when it's cold in the mornings I don't get the smears, but the wiper blades take a beating trying to clear the mist over the hard sap.

Check Up
I went in to get myself looked over/at recently. It's been a while for a really thorough check up, so the doc went overboard (in my opinion) with what was done. I need to be in shape; not to look good, but to be a benefit to those around me. If you have ever flown, the boring Emergency Speech can be used as a wakeup call for me and others: the part about placing the oxygen mask on yourself and then others applies to life as well. I need to be able to help those close to me in an emergency, and If I'm not in as good a shape as possible, I'm failing what I think is my job.

So, the usual fluid was drawn and a probe was made in the usual uncomfortable place for men. Preliminary results say I'm doing quite well for someone my age: blood pressure is in the lower range, cholesterol is what they say is a little high but they don't want to listen to what I have as hereditary numbers -- my family runs well over 200, with a couple close to 250, and I can keep mine about 180 with a good diet and an OTC supplement. So far I'm blessed to be in fairly good shape, even after crashing motorcycles, Achilles tendon surgery, a dislocated shoulder, and bad thumbs from the crashes. What is important is checking on the diseases and health issues that seem to affect we men in particular. That's why I'm following a movement this month...

Yes, I'm growing a mustache this month. It's been most of 30 years since I've had a mustache and a friend challenged me to participate this year. There is more to this thing than just growing a mustache; the Movember movement is there to shine a light on more than just Prostate Cancer. Just a small sample from the website:

From the Men's Health sub menu:
At 50, talk to your doctor about prostate cancer and whether it’s right for you to have a PSA test. If you are African American or have a father or brother with prostate cancer, you should be having this conversation at 45. Know your numbers, know your risk, talk to your doctor.
Something that also affects men disproportionately is suicide. From the Mental Health page:
Globally, every minute, a man dies by suicide. In the United States, 75% of suicides are men. 
What can we do? 
Encourage action.
Check in.
Look at the video on the above page. Think about who you talk to and who you can share problems with. I know that most men try to be the Lone Ranger, fighting the good fight by themselves, but having a friend to talk to can make a real difference.

Please look over the entire website, apply what you can, and encourage the men close to you to read it also. Even if you get a late start like me, it's never too late to take care of yourself!

Takeaway And Recap
  • Nothing was purchased this month, but I've saved maybe $0.10 in shave cream.
  • Take care of yourself first, so you can then care for those around you.


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.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Hen Condo Winter Mods

This week: Keeping my chickens dry and warm and happy.

I just bought a new coop. It’s awesome, complete, and should outlast my desire to need it. However, winter is here, the girls are crowded, and I have to make some adjustments.

Godspeed to you all.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Live Traps

Whether you live in a rural or urban location, there are times when the local wildlife will become a nuisance. However, if they get into your food storage, they become much more than a nuisance:
  • Skunks and raccoons carry rabies which is a threat to humans and domestic animals. They can also slaughter a coop full of chickens in a night.
  • Possums are generally beneficial critters that eat a lot of insects, but they have a habit of scattering the contents of trash cans.
  • Stray cats can put a dent in the local bird and small mammal population. This may or may not be a problem, depending on what they are preying on; rats and mice are fair game, as are birds that endanger stored grain, but when they start to compete for food with people (by hunting rabbits and squirrels, mostly), they become a nuisance.
  • Stray dogs that have formed a pack are no longer domesticated and are a hazard to people and livestock. In most rural areas, dogs seen chasing deer or livestock are given the “3 S” treatment; Shoot, Shovel, Shut up.
  • Groundhogs serve no good purpose that I'm aware of; they're just a pest.
  • Gophers and moles might make your lawn look bad, but they also eat a lot of earthworms that do a good job of aerating and conditioning the soil.

If you live inside city limits, the locals will not appreciate you using firearms to remove a nuisance animal. The level of their annoyance will vary by the politics of your area, but you're likely to get a ticket at least. Blazing away at a possum in your trash can is a good way to let everyone within earshot know that you have firearms, which is poor operational security (OPSEC) and could set you up for a visit by the local thieves.

Rural living has the advantage of fewer neighbors and fewer laws, but there are times when killing a nuisance animal isn't the answer:
  • Possums can be relocated to the woods, preferably a few miles away so they don't come back.
  • A neighbor with a rodent problem could use a few stray cats around his barn (be sure to ask first).
  • Skunks, foxes, and raccoons are considered fur-bearing animals, and some states have seasons when you can and can't harvest them.

The easiest way to remove a nuisance critter is with a live trap. I've been around standard leg-hold and conibear style traps, and they have the disadvantage of being indiscriminate in what they kill, but live traps let you decide what to do with your catch. Since the bait used for raccoons and possums is attractive to cats and dogs, it's nice to be able to dump Fluffy or Spot out of a live trap unharmed.

We keep a couple of Havahart live traps at the family farm for nuisances. They are a well-made brand that has been around for a long time, and the newer “Easy set” versions aren't as finicky as some of the old styles. You'll have to follow the instructions on how to set the trap, and Havahart has a YouTube channel instead of printed instructions. These traps aren't exactly cheap, but they last for decades and can be loaned out as needed, which means that not everybody needs to own one. They do come in different sizes; I stick with the medium and large because I've had pests that won't fit into the small ones.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Fallout Shelters

One of our readers on Facebook brought up fallout shelters as a form of prepping. Done properly, a fallout shelter is a moderately expensive ($5,000 -  $10,000) bit of prep because they're not as prevalent as they once were.

First, a disclaimer: fallout shelters are not the same as bunkers. A full-blown nuclear war bunker will have an armored door, air and water filtration systems, and months or years of supplies for the occupants, whereas a fallout shelter is a temporary shelter to get people out of the elements and away from the residue that will drift out of the sky following a nuclear blast (fallout). These shelters were designed and stocked to be used for a week or two, just long enough for the worst of the radioactive materials to burn out. Erin has explained radiation in past articles, but the short version is that the most energetic (dangerous) isotopes burn out quickly, so a couple of weeks underground is a good way to avoid exposure.

Sixty years ago, during the Cold War between the US and the USSR, nuclear war was a very real possibility and people prepared for it as best they could. An old neighbor's house had a decent one built into the basement with built-in shelving, bunks, and a double-turn entrance, meaning that the entrance was built so that there was no direct line of sight from the inside to the outside which provided a barrier to radiation. The neighbors turned it into a pantry for storing bulk foods, but it was still useful as a storm shelter. The threat of nuclear war has subsided, but having some place safe from tornadoes and other environmental hazards is still a good idea.

During the Cold War, our government actually set up a department of Civil Defense (CD) to provide information and supplies to the civilian population. I won't get into politics (we don't do that here), but this was an example of government actually trying to help the taxpayers. Unfortunately, the CD was replaced by FEMA in 1979, and their focus shifted to other threats. Simple supplies, well marked and pre-positioned where they will be needed, is something I'd like to see come back.

If you look around in the lower levels of older buildings, you may see a sign like this. These signs designated areas that the building's owners had loaned to the government for use as shelters. 

I was recently “promoted” at work and was handed a location of my own to run. The “new” location is a grain elevator that was built in 1955, in a very small town about an hour's drive from a major Cold War target. While digging through the accumulated papers and files, I found the original “license” papers for the fallout shelter on our site and some of the shipping papers for the supplies that the US government had placed there in 1962. Since the elevator is made of reinforced concrete and has a rather spacious “basement” area underground for pipes and conveyors, it would have made for a fairly comfortable shelter. The supplies had a limited (5 year) shelf-life and are long gone, but I did find the radiation detection kit sitting on a shelf in the back office. I'll do an article on that box later.

Here's a list of what was stored in my location for a maximum of 50 people and the descriptions from the official paperwork (the shipping papers didn't match the instructions exactly):

Crackers 5 gallon, 24.5# (11 cartons)
Food package, biscuit, survival. A wheat flour baked biscuit similar in taste and texture to a graham cracker. Each package provides 10,000 calories per person for 7 people. Each cardboard container contained six 6-pound cans of biscuits (390 biscuits, each 2.5”x2.5” and providing 30 calories).

Drum, metal, water storage (10 each)
17.5 gallon metal or fiber water containers, providing one quart of water per person per day. They were shipped empty with a plastic liner provided to keep the water clean and were to be filled once they reached the shelter. Remember the 5 year shelf-life?

Bag, liner, polyethylene (20 each)
For the water drums. The extras are so the drums can be used as toilets once the water is gone.

Sanitation kit, model 5K 1V (1 each)
A fiber (cardboard) drum, 16” diameter and 21” high containing:
  • 1 polyethylene liner bag
  • 5 pints toilet chemical (deodorant/disinfectant)
  • 1 privacy screen (5'x8' sheet of plastic)
  • 1 roll twine (for the privacy screen)
  • 6 wire ties (to close filled bags)
  • 20 rolls toilet paper
  • 1 can opener
  • 6 bottles of 50 Globoline water purification tablets (iodine-based water tablets)
  • 1 toilet seat
  • 1 pair plastic gloves
  • 20 plastic canteens (for rationing the water)

Medical kit A (1 each)
Medical kit A was the smallest and designed for 50 people. The B kit was for 100, and the C kit was for 300 and contained medications that wouldn't be allowed in today's political climate. The A kit contained:
  • 5 bottles of 100 aspirin
  • 1 bottle of 100 Aluminum Hydroxide Gel tablets (antacid)
  • 1 bottle of 10 Bismuth Subcarbonate tablets (similar to Pepto-Bismol)
  • 1 2 oz bottle of Calamine lotion (for skin irritation and rashes)
  • 2 bars surgical soap
  • 1 1 oz bottle of Eugenol (the active ingredient in cloves, useful for toothaches)
  • 2 4 oz containers of surgical jelly
  • 1 1 oz container Tetracaine ointment (similar to Lidocaine, a topical numbing agent)
  • 1 qt Isopropyl Alcohol (disinfectant)
  • 1 bottle ear drops
  • 8 4 oz containers Elixir Terpin Hydrate ( an expectorant, used to loosen mucous in the lungs)
  • 2 ½ oz eye and nose drops
  • Various bandages, dressings, sanitary pads and belts (ask your grandmother)
  • An official Civil Defense Medical Self-help Manual.
As you can see, the water and food supplies were subsistence level, and the medical supplies were mostly medicine cabinet grade. Since the occupants were expected to be mostly sedentary, with no heavy work or exertion, two weeks on this diet wouldn't have been pleasant but it would have been survivable. Being in a grain elevator there would have been plenty of wheat and corn to supplement the rations, with a few rats for extra protein.

There are a lot of resources online for designing or buying a fallout shelter. If you just want to see some of the history of the CD system, I recommend the Civil Defense Museum. I'm trying to contact the owner of that site to see if he wants any of the stuff I've found; otherwise, it will probably go to a local museum.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Pantry Organization Update

My pantry has become a mess. On the positive side, we're storing more food and a wider variety of foods; on the negative side, my old system hasn't kept up as our scale has increased. Being a good-ish Mormon is catching up to me somewhat.

Fall is a great time to check your supplies. Seasonal changes are a built-in reminder, and if you entertain like we do you'll need to inventory your stocks anyway with the holiday season pending. It was while we were doing this very inventory that we decided we're past due for some upgrades, which will be extensive. I have a huge amount of space in my pantry, but a lot of it is less than ideally usable.

As I mentioned in my previous article, boxed and especially bagged goods are still a nightmare for organization. My shelves are quite deep (in the neighborhood of 24") and make it a bit tough to see what is on the shelf. In short, my shelves are too deep front-to-back, a bit too short in vertical space, and generally lacking access.

The first thing I plan to do is remove a tier of shelving. It'll cost me a bit of space, but it's going to make space for a can organizer. I'm going with the largest unit they have, since I'm at the point that I need to store that many varieties of canned goods. If you're not at that point, you can go with a smaller model and expand later.

Boxed and bagged goods will move to under-shelf baskets. This will keep them from hiding behind other item, and allow me to better see what I do have. Also, elevating these goods frees pantry space below them for other items. I also have a fair bit of dead space at the bottom of my pantry that can be utilized with hanging baskets.

My preliminary math has me expecting a wash on actual space available, but a substantial gain on usable space. Knowing what I have available will ensure I not only don't run out of supplies, but also don't over-buy items that I already have because I can't see them when I make out my shopping list. I'll show pictures as I do the actual build so you can see the progress of the project.

Optimize your space to save time and money.


Monday, November 4, 2019

Practice Makes Prudent Prepping: Detroit Gambler 500, Part 1

 Over the winter I’ll be planning and preparing for the Detroit Gambler 500. If you are unfamiliar, check them out here.

Godspeed to you all.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Zombieland Rules for Preppers

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Yes, this is a couple days late for Halloween. My apologies; it's been a rough week for a lot of us, which explains why we had no posts on Tuesday or Thursday and why mine is late.

But hopefully it's still somewhat " 'tis the spooky season" this weekend, and in that spirit I give you a somewhat-serious take on the Zombieland rules of survival and how they can be applied to preppers for all sorts of apocalypses.

Rule #1: Cardio
Being in shape is important, although I would suggest more than just cardio exercise. Most Americans need to lose about 30 pounds, myself included, and not only would that make us lighter and faster but it will also increase our lifespan. Furthermore, in disasters and emergencies we may need to lift, move or carry something heavy in order to save lives, so being strong and healthy allows us to do that and also protects us from injury (see #18, below).

Every prepper should be able to do at least one push-up and one pull-up, and be able to sprint 100 yards without getting winded.

Rule #2: Double Tap
In the context of the movies this is meant to illustrate the concept of "If you need to kill something, take the extra time to ensure that it's truly dead instead of just wounded." This can apply in various situations from ethical hunting (if you wounded an animal, follow it and put it out of its misery quickly rather than letting it suffer) to self defense (shoot until the threat is neutralized and never shoot to wound). 

Important Disclaimer: If you do shoot someone in self defense, NEVER perform a coup-de-grace. That's a good way to get yourself arrested, charged, and convicted for murder. 

Rule #2 (Deleted Scene): Ziploc Bags
Weatherproofing is important, especially for supplies which can be spoiled by exposure to moisture. Food, ammunition, and fire starting supplies like matches and tinder all need to be kept dry. You need to keep dry, too, because being wet leads to being cold which can lead to hypothermia. 

Rule #3: Beware of Bathrooms
When you're using the restroom, you are uniquely vulnerable: your pants are literally down and you typically don't have another way out. If there's only one way in and you're cornered, then you have to get past an assailant in order to escape. However, people do need to use the toilet, so in situations where you feel you might be in danger when using the bathroom, utilize the buddy system (see below). 

Rule #4: Seatbelts
Use all protective gear available to you, because prevention is the best cure. 

Rule #6 (Promotional Video): Cast Iron Skillet
Not shown in the movie but rather in a series of promos for the movie. While the video suggests it as an weapon, I take it as a reminder that we are surrounded by tools which can be repurposed for different tasks. Don't forget to improvise!

Rule #7: Travel Light
When you have to evacuate, don't let your preps weigh you down. Getting to safety alive is preferable to dying with all your stuff. 

Rule #12 (Promotional Video): Bounty Paper Towels
Hygiene is important for health (especially in a situation involving infection materials) as well as happiness.

Rule #15 (Promotional Video): Bowling Ball
Need to throw something? Just use a little ingenuity to make it easier. Use gravity to help you whenever possible. 

Rule #17: Don't Be a Hero
This rule applies in both interpretations. Sometimes it's necessary to risk your life to save others, especially if they're loved ones, but remember that you can't help anyone if you're trapped, injured, unconscious or dead. Don't take foolish risks!

Rule #18: Limber Up
If you need to move something heavy, or if you suspect you'll need to run hard, it makes sense to take a few moments to limber up. Soft-tissue injuries like pulled muscles suck on normal days; during an emergency they could mean the difference between death and survival. 

Rule #29 (Promotional Video): The Buddy System
You'll end up being vulnerable at some point; we all need to sleep and use the bathroom. Have a trusted friend (or more) watch out for you while you rest, clean yourself, etc. 

Rule #31: Check the Back Seat
Looking behind you on a regular basis is a habit all people ought to cultivate. In the military this is known as "Checking your six". 

Rule #32: Enjoy the Little Things
Morale is critically important during an emergency or disaster; a fatalistic mindset can result in fatalities. When possible and when it's safe, take time to do something fun to raise spirits and remind you that there's something to live for at the end of all this. 

Rule #33 (Promotional Video): Swiss Army Knife
I actually don't much care for the Swiss Army Knife as I feel it doesn't do anything well and does many things badly. However, never underestimate the value of a good multitool, like a Leatherman

Rule #52: Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help
This is from the new movie, Zombieland: Double Tap,  which I haven't seen yet but hope to see this weekend. In many ways it's a restatement of #29, but it's also a reminder that human beings will respond to cries for help. In fact, emergencies tend to bring out the best in people, so form a group and get things done.  

If there are any more rules in the new movie (and there ought to be) I'll list them in a follow-up article!

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