Friday, January 31, 2020

Practice in Both Practice and Theory

As I was taking a look at recent posts by my fellow authors, and reading comments on the Facebook group from some of the members concerning those posts, it struck me that I am facing a somewhat serious crises of conscience right now.

We talk a lot about skill sets, and making sure we have the proper tools on hand to meet whatever types of emergency that life and Mother Nature happen to throw in our direction.  Whether those proper tools happen to be an in-car emergency kit with reflectors and a pair of jumper cables and maybe a few tools to change a hose or belt in a hurry, or a water filter straw, emergency blanket, and fire tab emergency stove in a GHB that happens to live in the trunk next to the jumper cables, its not always about what we have, so much as it is how we use what we have.

During a recent discussion concerning manual can openers prompted by Chaplin Tim's post, many of us were jokingly about whether, what type, and how many manual openers we happened to have on hand in various locations.  I've got... a lot of them.  Let's leave it at that.

I realized something important, though: out of the plethora of styles that I happen to have easy access to in my home, my car, and my camping equipment, there are only 4 or 5 out of the dozen or so that I've actively used more than once or twice.  My first reaction to this realization was to tell myself "No big deal, we don't stock much in the way of canned stuff in this house anyway -- it's all fresh, or shelf-stable non-canned, or home canned!" 

Then I started thinking about it further, and realized that the deficiency extends further than to just my multitude of can openers in various styles. I maintain 6 or 7 different non-bic lighter methods of starting a fire in my BoB/GHB, as well as always carrying at least one or 2 lighters in my pockets (I'm a smoker, what can I say - I'm never without fire!)  But I've done very little work with most of those methods.  I used them just enough to assure myself that with some work, I could use them.  I did not, however, use any of them sufficiently to actually become proficient with them, or for any of them to become second nature.

Skills deteriorate over time if left unused, and it's been a couple of years since I even made an attempt with some of my various methods of lighting a fire.  I honestly don't know, as I'm sitting here writing this blog post, whether I can still accomplish the task with most of the tools available to me.  And while its not such a big deal today - right this minute, right this second, or even probably tomorrow or next week - it could be, because you can never be sure during an Oklahoma winter whether Ma Nature is gonna toss a rather nasty ice storm in your direction that takes down the power lines and causes massive problems.

So I need to start making myself practice with all of my gear more regularly, instead of smugly allowing it to simply sit in its bag in the car.  And so do you!  Make sure that you actually practice with the tools at your disposal, instead of blindly assuring yourself that you're in good shape simply because you have access to them!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Product Review: Beeman Black Cub 1022 Air Rifle

While shopping for Christmas gifts a couple of months ago, I found myself wandering down the sporting goods aisle of a local Walmart. Their selection of ammunition has changed recently and I can find better prices online, so I don't wander that area much any more, but I was looking for a gift. I stopped at the air gun display and took a good look at what they had to offer since I've been looking for something to use for pest removal at work. Due to various safety and other concerns I'm limited to an air rifle and lead pellets for this task, and I had been thinking of getting an inexpensive gun to leave in the office. 

Air guns have a place in a prepper's arsenal. Quieter than a firearm, they can be used for harvesting small game at close range. Their low recoil makes them a good choice for training, and many are made with child-sized stocks for the younger shooters. Ammunition is cheap, and as long as you buy a brand name it is fairly accurate. The lack of propellant makes the shot-to-shot variation smaller, so they can be very accurate weapons.  They are also exempt from a lot of the regulations associated with firearms.
I found the Beeman “Black Cub” air rifle, also marked “Beeman 1022”, for less than $80. This package included the rifle, both .177 and .22 caliber barrels, and a cheap 4x32 scope. It is a “break-barrel” design, which means you grab the front of the barrel and pull it down to compress a spring in the action. This also presents the “chamber” of the barrel for loading a single pellet before you return the barrel to the firing position. It's a simple design, and that's one of the things I was looking for. Single shot works fine for the type of shooting I intend to do with this rifle, and the single-stroke cocking is quicker than a multi-pump pellet gun. I also like the option of switching calibers; the .177 is more common, but in my experience the .22 tends to be more lethal on pest-sized targets.

Once I got the box to the office, it was simple to switch the barrel to the .22 cal. Using the hex key supplied, I loosened a set screw on the bottom of the front of the action just ahead of the pivot and pulled the barrel out of the action. The other barrel slid in easily, and tightening the set screw locked it in place. The instructions did warn that the rifle sights will not hold zero between barrel swaps, so I'll have to sight it in again after each swap.

A few points of interest:
  • There is a threaded cap on the end of the palm grip that opens to a hollow space for storing the hex key and spare parts (they included a spare set screw and O-ring for the barrel seat in small bag).
  • The fixed sights both have light-gathering plastic inserts. The front sight has an orange bar and the rear sight has two green bars. This is not a bad set-up, but does require fairly bright light to work.
  • The front sight is fixed and protected by a metal shroud, which is handy since that's where you need to grasp the barrel to cock the rifle.
  • The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation. Use a small flat-head screwdriver to loosen the locking screws and manually adjust the sight, then tighten the screws back down. This is not a very accurate or secure type of rear sight, and the lack of any makings makes adjustments a guessing game.
  • The plastic stock is light, but it seems to be sturdy enough for moderate use. I'm not looking for a battle rifle and I doubt I'll have to butt-stroke a dying rat, so this will work for me.
  • The safety is mounted high on the rear of the action and automatically engages when you cock the rifle. It takes a few times to get used to having to push the button in before each shot.

The first thing I did after installing the .22 barrel was sight in the rifle. This is where things started to go wrong:
  • I set up a target in a flat field of dirt and used an improvised bench to provide a steady shooting position.
  • My choice of pellets was Crossman Premier Hollow-points, a good target/hunting choice. Not the cheapest, closer to mid-range in price, I've used them in the past.
  • At 50 yards, my spotter couldn't even see where my shots were going. Normally you can see dirt being thrown up near the target if you're not hitting it. We moved the target up to 35 yards with similar results.
  • Placing a full 4x8 sheet of thin plywood behind the target didn't help, the shots were nowhere near it.
  • After several attempts at shifting the windage to the left on a guess, we finally got hits on the plywood. I had to use almost the entire space available to adjust the rear sight enough to get hits near the point of aim.
  • Adjusting elevation wasn't as much of an issue, and I was able to place 5 shots into an quarter-sized group at 35 yards. Not great, but acceptable accuracy for my purposes.

After a test run on our resident flock of sky-rats, I found that the light-gathering sights need almost full sunlight to be useful. Indoors, with limited lighting and dirty windows, the sights were just a dark post and notch. The large size of the front sight (due to the plastic insert) made it difficult to get a good target picture on a bird 4 inches wide at 20 yards. Time to try the scope that came in the box.
  • 4x32 is a low-power scope and the quality of glass in this one was pretty low as well. It came with an amber dust cover, but that reduced the available light even more.
  • The scope required as much adjustment as the fixed sights did, so I'm going to assume that the barrel is bent. This is not what I'd expect from any factory-fresh gun on the market today, even from a Chinese copy of a rifle that Beeman has been making for many years.
  • I did get to teach my apprentice a bit about scopes and how to sight them in. My helper is quite young and uneducated but not stupid.
  • The cross-hairs on the scope were much better than the iron sights, but the lack of accuracy limited me to body shots. I may be old, but hitting a one-inch target (head shots) at 20 yards is something I can still do with any of my rimfire rifles.
  • Two dozen dead birds later, I turned the rifle over to the apprentice and let him have some practice. We'll try the .177 barrel at a later date, once it warms up a bit.

For any real use, this rifle would make a better club than a gun. The bent barrel fresh out of the box, poor accuracy with good ammunition, and typical Chinese fit and finish make this something to avoid wasting prepping money on. This one will stay at work, probably even after I retire in several years.

In preparation for writing, I normally try to do a bit of research. I try to find sources for anything I do a review on, and I like to find better photographs than I can get out of my phone. However, this rifle is about as close to being a “ghost gun” as I have ever seen: no mention of it on Beeman's website, nothing on Walmart's site, no product reviews online. Amazon does have a listing that I finally found, but it has no reviews.

The most likely scenario I can come up with is that it is a Chinese copy of the Beeman RS2 and it didn't sell very well or the quality was so poor that they got tired of having them returned., so it has been moved to the “Clearance” rack in the local store. If I get any extra discretionary money in the near future, I may get the RS2 and see how it compares.

Update: After writing this article, I did another quick search for this rifle and actually found a review. Written a few weeks prior to mine, the review was by someone with a lot more experience with air rifles and his conclusions were close to mine. If you're interested, it's here.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Where Have You Been?

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

... and with whom have you been doing things? That is an important question to answer, with what's happening in China, other nearby Asian countries and now here in North America.

Corona Virus
What do we really know about what is happening in China? Only what the Chinese government wants to tell us. To loosely quote a friend, "Any government that willingly starved and bulldozed millions of their citizens into mass graves can't be trusted to give reliable reports on this."

What To Do
Don't panic. Seriously. Continue to do the things you normally would:
  • Sensibly add to your emergency stores of food, water and other supplies as needed by your situation.
  • Check that those in your group are doing the same things.
  • Talk to your friends and help them start prepping.
    From talking to a senior RN with experience treating patients with easily spread diseases, adding masks to your preps is a good idea, but only a half-measure. These are where you need to start:

    3M N95 Respirator
    From the Amazon ad:
    • NIOSH APPROVED N95 for at least 95 percent filtration efficiency against certain non oil based particles and aerosols
    • 3M COOL FLOW VALVE helps reduce heat build up inside the respirator
    • BREATHE 30 percentage EASIER compared to 3M 8200, breathe easier is defined as initial pressure drop
    • ADJUSTABLE M NOSECLIP helps ensure a custom, secure seal with fewer pressure points
    • LIGHTWEIGHT DESIGN for comfort
    • COMFORTABLE for long periods of wear

    Why is this a good place to start, you ask? My nurse friend mentioned masks are good for you when there is the possibility of you possibly transmitting a virus or germ. However, what's missing is eye protection or a face shield of some type. Since corona virus can be transmitted through the air, exposed eyes are also an easy way to become infected. She mentioned the use of eye protection in most operating rooms, and I know my dentist and the techs are now using it too. Unfortunately for me, all of this is not possible at my work, since we don't have a hazardous workplace or the corporate training to wear this gear.

    Is all this overkill, an overreaction to what may turn out to be 2020's bird flu? Maybe; maybe not. Since the apparent incubation time is two weeks, how many of your friends, co-worker's friends, or their friends have had contact with someone from central China?

    My best answer is, "I don't know." I see nothing wrong with laying in extra supplies of masks, hand sanitizer and maybe goggles just to be safe.

    Coming Attraction
    Just a little teaser!

    Bottle Bag Challenge!

    Recap And Takeaway
    • Stock up, but be sensible about your purchases. All of the Home Improvement Centers on the west coast are sold out of masks -- from speaking to the shoppers in the stores I've been in, the majority are being bought and sent to China.
    • Nothing was purchased by me this week, but things may be bought in the future to complete the Bottle Bag Challenge!

    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, January 28, 2020

    Erin's Water Bottle Carrier Challenge

    Not actually Erin.
    & is used with permission.
    It's late, but here's what I came up with for turning a water bottle carrier into a small BOB. I'm not entirely happy with it, but this is the best I've been able to come up with in a week's time.

    Erin's Amazing Expanding Carrier
    What I'm most proud of is how I managed to fill the bottle with water without losing storage space. What I'm most upset about is that I know there has to be something I can affix to the top of the carrier with velcro, but I don't know what to put on it.

    This is its stowed configuration.


    Exterior Attachments
    Attached to the front of the unit is a folding dump pouch. This is kept mostly empty (but see below) while the pack is stowed. When deployed, I plan to empty the contents of the water bottle into the pouch so that I can keep them handy while still having access to water. 

    Attached to the sides are two MOLLE strobe/GPS/phone pouches, carrying bulky items that I couldn't get into the bottle.

    Attached to the back is a Hawke Peregrine.

    Inside the dump pouch are two lightweight objects that roll up easily: a 32 ounce Sawyer squeeze pouch and 25 feet of Parapocalypse cord. If I were building this kit for actual use rather than proof-of-concept I'd upgrade that to at least 50 feet.

    Left pouch: an S.O.L heat reflective waterproof poncho and a hard-cased booboo kit filled with an assortment of band-aids, gels, 3 types of painkiller (Aleve, Tylenol, and aspirin), anti-diarrheal, Dramamine, Benadryl, and a sheet of steri-strips.

    Knife pouch: a Speedy-Sharp and a Lansky Quadsharp.

    Right pouch: a one ounce bottle of Gold Bond medicated body powder, a bottle of hand sanitizer, and a Tiny Survival Guide that I got as a present. It's slightly silly, but it takes up negligible space, has some useful info, and also comes with a fresnel lens.

    Integral Gadget Pouch

    This is the good stuff right here: a mylar sleeping bag (like a space blanket, only in tube form), a Gen 2 Firebox Nano ultralight stove, a disposable lighter, Pro-Knot cards, an UltraFire 300 lumen mini Cree flashlight, and 5 tabs of Wetfire fuel.

    Water Bottle Compartment
    This contains (surprise!) a Nalgene 32-ounce wide mouth bottle, which is exactly the same volume as the squeeze bag mentioned above. This is so that if I have time I can filter water straight into the bottle.

    Also present are a stainless steel cup of unknown make and origin (seriously, it's featureless and I don't know where I got it), a simple cotton bandana, and a Coughlan's 36-hour survival candle.

    Within the bottle we have, quite frankly, what I could fit inside it: a spork & spatula set (bought at Walmart, I think); an energy bar, powdered coffee, and powdered sports drink; a Swiss army knife; a container of safety pins; a Sawyer Mini filter; UST SparkForce striker; bottle of New Skin liquid bandage; a roll of duct tape; Adventure Medical Rescue Howler whistle and mini signal mirror; straw from the  Sawyer kit; travel toothbrush; toothpaste; and dental floss.

    Biggest Failing
    There isn't more than a snack's worth of food here. I tried, but food is big and heavy.

    I am still annoyed that I couldn't think of anything to put on the velcro lid of the bottle carrier. No doubt one of the smart people who write for this blog will find a way to exploit that.

    If I had the time and was serious about making this into a survival kit, I would probably find a way to mount gear to the strap... but then, if I were serious about this, I would use a larger bag.

    Biggest Success
    I managed to double the carrying capacity of the bag by adding the collapsible dump pouch. That way I have access to water and all the things I stowed inside the bottle.

    Its empty weight is 6 pounds and it is very compact, able to fit underneath most car seats. Filled with water, it weighs 9 pounds and is still very portable.

    If I pair that with my every day carry (which includes a pistol, a leatherman, a tourniquet, and wound bandages) I am pretty prepared for most things the world can throw at me.

    All right, BCP authors. I've set the bar. Can you clear it?

    Sunday, January 26, 2020

    Check Your Spare Tires

    Not actually Erin.
    & is used with permission.
    Sorry, no Bottle Carrier BOB this week. I had something come up this weekend which put me very late in getting home from a speech I gave while 100 miles out of town.

    Here's the short version:
    • I had no problems driving to my hotel, where I checked in, refreshed myself, and prepared my presentation. 
    • When I drove to the meeting three hours later, the car's rear end felt a little soft in the turns, like one of the wheels was low. I resolved to put some air into it after my speech. 
    • Driving to dinner after my speech, the tire got worse and worse until I knew I had a flat. I pulled into a parking lot to look at it and, yes, the left rear tire was flat. 
    • While I know how to change a tire, I was in my nice clothes and I didn't want to get them messy and greasy, and besides that I have roadside assistance with my car insurance anyway, so I'd just let them handle it. 
    • After a suitable wait, the assistance man showed up. I opened my trunk and he pulled out the spare tire... and then said "I can't fix this."
    Here are pictures of what he saw, although these were taken 12 hours later:

    I didn't know this, but apparently spare tires can go bad and should be replaced ever 4-6 years. This was my mother's car, a 2006 model, and I think that spare has been checked approximately never

    For those of you wondering what happened next:
    • Roadside man tried to inflate my flat with a compressor, but I had a hole in the sidewall of the tire. 
    • It was 1 am and nothing was open, so I took a Lyft back to my hotel. 
    • The next morning I called another Lyft and put my luggage inside it (all my preps were inside the car, so I didn't have much).
    • I got back, took the above pictures, and put the luggage in the car. 
    • I intended to call roadside assistance again and get it towed to a tire place, but I had passed one coming back and knew I could get there by travelling half a mile through parking lots. 
    • The tire people asked me what I'd hit. I said "Nothing, why?" Apparently the other rear tire was also flat (no idea how) and so I replaced both. 
    • After about 3.5 hours, I was finally on the road and had an uneventful drive home. 
    So if you haven't done so, check your spare tire to make sure it's still good. 

    Friday, January 24, 2020

    Delay of Blog

    Not actually Erin.
    & is used with permission.
    I know that I said I'd have my Bottle Carrier Challenge for you today, but 1) I forgot that I'd be travelling out of town today for a speaking engagement and 2) some things that I ordered off Amazon haven't yet come in. So we'll have to wait for this weekend for you to see what I stuff inside my Bottle Carrier.

    Thursday, January 23, 2020

    Yes, it's Winter

    It's snowing here, which means the temperature finally got warm enough that it could snow. Below-zero temperatures and six inches of snow make it hard to do much outside that isn't absolutely necessary, so most of my time has been spent indoors this month. What's a prepper to do when it's too early to garden, too late to harvest, and too cold to go outside?

    Check Your Supplies
    • I've gone through some of my stored goods and cold-weather supplies. Rotating food supplies is an on-going process, not an event, but I found some jars and cans that had been lost in the shadows of the pantry. Soups and stews got a little extra added to them to make use of the odd ingredients that weren't useful alone.
    • I have oil lamps as back-up lighting, so I check the stored lamp oil this time of year. Several of the plastic bottles have gotten brittle after mumble years of storage in a dark corner of the basement, so the contents got transferred to metal storage containers like these.
    • We went shopping for cold-weather clothing a week ago, as this is the time of year when stores are getting ready for their spring clothing to arrive and the winter clothing is going on sale. Some of my thermal underwear is aging out and got replaced, and I'm still looking for a few more pair of wool socks. I dress in layers, so adding a few long-sleeved T-shirts and some new flannel shirts to the closet was a good investment.

    Check Your Gear
    • I pulled out the sleeping bags and made sure they were still in good shape. With cold weather we get extremely low humidity, so now is a good time to air them out and know that they will be put away dry.
    • Extra blankets have been breeding in my closet for some time. I'm not even sure where some of these came from, but I have plenty stored. A quick check to make sure the vermin are leaving them alone and then running a few through the laundry before putting them back in storage. I like to leave a scented dryer sheet folded in with the blankets; it helps repel rodents and adds a pleasant fragrance.
    • My GHB got reorganized back in October before the cold set in, and switching to my spring/summer gear will happen around April. Cleaning and checking that warm-weather gear in its storage tote doesn't take much time or effort and gives me a chance to consider upgrades/changes.
    • The winter boots are ready for their mid-season water-proofing. I use Sno-Seal on my leather boots, and it does wear off eventually. Follow the instructions on the can for best result, but the basics are to apply it to clean, dry boots and then place them in a warm spot to allow it to soak in. Getting things clean and dry can take some time in this weather, which is why I have more than one pair of boots.

    Check Your Weapons
    • The hunting seasons are mostly done around here, so it's time to put some of the toys back in storage. I'm stocked well enough that I can have dedicated defense guns and others for hunting. Putting the hunting guns in the back of the safe means giving them a thorough cleaning and making sure they're properly lubed and rust-proofed.
    • Some of the toys haven't been out of the safe for a while, so the cold nights are a good time to scrub the barrels clean of dust and give them a good inspection. The saying is that weapons only have two enemies, rust and politicians, and cleaning and oiling will take care of the rust.
    • Several of my rifles shoot corrosive ammo, so I make sure the barrels get cleaned even when I'm not using them. That surplus Russian ammo was cheap when I laid in a lifetime supply, but it requires extra cleaning. The corrosive salts are hard to get completely cleaned out, and running a brush/oiled patch down the bore doesn't take much time.
    • My wife thinks I'm just “playing with my toys”, but I'm doing preventative maintenance. Really, I am. This isn't just an excuse to f̵o̵n̵d̵l̵e̵ handle my collection of tools and toys.

    Check on Your Tribe
    • Winter is a good time to gather with friends and talk. Sitting around a campfire in the fall is ideal, but sharing a meal and some time with fellow preppers is a good way to reconnect and offer/receive aid.
    • Winter can be hard on the older and less-well prepared members of your tribe, so take the time to check up on them and make sure they're healthy and doing well. Living up north, we get significantly less daylight during the winter and that can have an effect on people (Seasonal Affective Disorder), so watch for symptoms of increased depression.
    • Cabin fever is real and can be an issue. If you have tribe members that are susceptible, find ways to get them out of the house once in a while. Being cooped up with a cranky, hyperactive, and morose roommate is not good for your mental health, so find ways to get them some fresh air.
    • If your tribe is scattered like mine, stay in contact as best you can. I've been falling short in this area for a while and am trying to make changes.

    Living in the frozen wastes of the northern tier of states isn't ideal, but it's something I've grown up doing. I'll trade the snow and cold for alligators and snakes any day, and I don't have to worry about insects for at least another two months. Spring is coming; we just have to get through the last of winter and it'll be planting season before we know it.

    Wednesday, January 22, 2020

    Prudent Prepping: Bagging It

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

    As mentioned by our esteemed founder and Editrix Extraordinaire in her bottle bag blog post, we have been challenged to fill a bottle carrier with useful items. This means that I need to have a bottle carrier. Here is what I ordered.

    Procase Water Bottle Pouch
    Bottle for demonstration only. Not included with the bag.

    From the Amazon ad:
    • Water bottle holder size: 11"×4"; Practical size, exclusively designed for storing your water bottle, water bladder, DJI Mavic Pro device and its batteries or other gears
    • Accessory bag size: 6"×1.6", zippered accessory pouch on the front for more stuff, like cell phone, keys, wallet or map; Built with quality two-way zippers, easy to open and close the pouch
    • Material: made from 900D Oxford fabric, durable and water-repellent; Keeping your water bottle and other supplies well protected and providing long-term durability in outdoor environment
    • Molle webbing throughout the pouch allows users to attach extra accessories and Molle gear to the bag firmly; Hook-and-loop for attaching personal tags according to one's liking
    • Comes with a comfortable detachable shoulder strap, easy to carry around; Or you could remove the strap easily and hang the pouch in your backpack with two buckles on the back
    There is a slightly different version of this bottle carrier available, which uses draw-strings to close up (or at least wrap around) the bottle top. I chose the enclosed version, since this bag could get banged and bumped around, even when stored empty, let alone full of water. I'm excited to get started on figuring out what my contents might be. Stay tuned!

    (Editrix's Note: David bought a more expensive version of the carrier. I don't know why. The one I linked is here.)

    Christmas Close-outs
    Your local Home Depot may or may not have Christmas leftovers around. If they do, look for this deal: Plano Large ABS Case with Handle in Orange

    My picture. The Depot ad sucks!

    This is a Plano Model #PLA1460HD and it appears to be a Home Depot special, since I can't find the exact item listed on Amazon. If you embiggen the picture you can see that this model has a foam liner pre-cut for picking out custom shapes to better protect your electronic bits. The last store I was in had three at a markdown price of $11.99, while normally you special order these for $13.99. I did not buy any, since I do not have smallish electronics to protect at the moment.

    Recap and Takeaway


    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, January 21, 2020

    Making Your Own Yogurt

    I love yogurt. It's been one of my favorite treats since I was a little kid, it's tasty and satisfying, and being loaded with protein makes it good for you. The best yogurts also promote the growth of good bacteria in your digestive tract.

    Unfortunately, it's also quite expensive. Fortunately, yogurt making is a fairly straightforward process. As I mentioned last week, making yogurt is one of the neatest uses of an Instant Pot. It requires strong attention to detail and a bit of a time commitment, but the actual doing is fairly simple. Additionally, it is far less expensive than buying yogurt in the store: a gallon of whole milk costs $3 or less here, and 32 oz of live culture yogurt is about $4. Yes, you have to have yogurt to make yogurt! You need roughly 1 tablespoon of yogurt per quart of milk to provide the bacteria that makes yogurt work. After your first batch, you can keep recycling your own yogurt to start the next batch, but you have to buy your first round.

    As I mentioned above, you're dealing with bacteria. Pay particular attention to temperatures and cleanliness, as messing up those will mess up your bacteria and kill your yogurt.

    Clean the inner pot of your pressure cooker well before you start. Pour some boiling water into it and thoroughly swirl it around, then dump the water out.

    Bring your milk to 180 degrees in the pot. If you have a yogurt button on yours, this is as easy as pushing that button and selecting the "boil" setting. If not, use the "Sear/Saute" setting and cook for about 30 minutes, until your milk is at the correct temperature.

    Allow your milk to cool to approximately 108 degrees. This should take about an hour if your pot is sitting on the counter. However, you can dramatically accelerate this by putting the inner pot from your Instant Pot into an ice bath, which will get you to your desired temperature in about 15 minutes. Once your milk gets to temperature, skim off the "skin" on your milk.

    Stir in your yogurt. 1 tablespoon per quart, whisking it in thoroughly. Make sure you're using plain yogurt with live cultures. You're looking for a note on the label that says Lactobacillus bulgaricus or Streptococcus thermophilus. Flavored or sweetened yogurt will not work for this!

    Incubate your yogurt. Your bacterial brew needs to sit and simmer for 8 hours. Put the inner pot with your yogurt back into the cooker. If you have a yogurt button, simply press it and set it for 8 hours. If not, wrap your cooker in one or two large towels and set a timer for 8 hours.

    After the 8 hours is up, portion your yogurt into containers and refrigerate it. It will store well for about 2 weeks.

    The final product will be thinner than commercial yogurt, more like a thick milkshake. I'm experimenting with ways to thicken it up, the first by adding dried milk before cooling to 108 degrees, the other by replacing some of the milk with heavy cream. Both methods add extra fat to thicken the final product. With a bit of fine tuning, you can achieve the consistency you want.

    Making your own yogurt is cheaper and healthier, and fairly simple.


    Monday, January 20, 2020

    Portable Cat Litter Prep

    Don’t forget your pets!

    Here’s a little DIY to help make your getaway easier.

    Godspeed to you all.

    Friday, January 17, 2020

    The Bottle Carrier Challenge

    Not actually Erin.
    & is used with permission.
    While in the process of repacking and slimming down my Get Home Bag, I had an idea for making a minimalist Bug Out Bag or GHB. To that end I have decided to issue a challenge to my fellow BCP authors in the style that Chaplain Tim did last with his $30 IFAK Challenge.

    The rules for The Bottle Carrier Challenge are quite simple:
    1. If you do not own one already, acquire a bottle carrier similar to the above picture. The specifics are unimportant; all that matters is that it has a main compartment able to hold a 40oz / 1 liter bottle, a secondary "gadget" compartment of roughly 6"x4"x2", and have MOLLE straps on it. 
    2. Declare what kind of emergency kit this will be: Bug Out, Get Home, First Aid, whatever you like so long as it's related to prepping. The idea here is to demonstrate that you don't specifically need a backpack to make a good emergency kit. It's obviously not a BOB, but it's sure better than nothing, and it's obviously portable.
    3. Fill carrier with / attach to carrier prepping items for your stated emergency. You don't have to buy them new; you can use what you already have or borrow from a friend. But you must have the item for photographic purposes.
    4. Don't get cute by attaching an obviously larger and heavier container to the carrier, like a full-scale backpack. The carrier itself must be portable in its own right. 
    5. Take pictures of what goes where and, if necessary, explain your reasoning behind why you included certain items. 
    I look forward to seeing what our esteemed authors do with this challenge! I will be posting my own results next week. 

    Thursday, January 16, 2020

    Can Openers for Dummies

    I'm officially old now:the other day I had to teach a 20-something worker how to use a can opener. This poor soul has been raised his entire life with pull tabs on canned goods or an electric can opener on the counter, and had no clue how to open a can of soup with the opener on my Boy Scout knife (which is older than he is). A manual can opener is not some miracle of modern science; they've been around since Napoleon Bonaparte funded the invention of canned foods.

    Looking at the three can openers available in my EDC gear (redundancy is part of my life), I thought that I should maybe explain these curious anachronisms to the younger readers of this blog just to get the information out there. While there is no such thing as a stupid question, many people won't ask for information that they feel they should know or don't know that they don't know. The more experienced readers can either skip this article or read through it and add their two cents' worth in the comments.

    Canned food is one of the overlooked miracles of “modern” life. With proper preparation and a good seal, canned food allows us to store food for a year or two and enjoy the nutrients and tastes long after the food is harvested. Most canned food is placed into a tin-lined steel can and a lid is roll-crimped onto the open end, sealing out air and contaminants. The roll-crimp leaves a defined “lip” around one or both ends of the can, depending on the construction of the can, and that “lip” is the key to using an opener to get to the goodies inside. Electric openers, and the manual ones that look like a pair of pliers, use a metal gear on the bottom of the lip for gripping and moving the can while a round cutting wheel pierces the top of the lid and shears through the metal of the lid as the can is rotated. There are variations that flip the cutting mechanism 90° and cut through the can just under the lid, but the method is the same.

    Simple manual can openers come in various shapes and sizes, and they fall into two styles:

    Convex Cutter

    The cutting edge that pierces the lid faces away from the rest of the opener, and is usually beveled in two stages or angles. The one on the “bigfoot” pocket tool's upper arm has the break between the two stages about centered, while the one on the clip knife is roughly a third of the way along the cutting edge. Leaving the “sharp” edge exposed lets you use it for other purposes more easily, like scraping or scratching a surface.

    I don't have a good close-up camera, so I can't show you the profiles of the cutting edges, but the “bigfoot” has a flat side and a beveled side similar to a chisel,while the one on the knife has a double-beveled edge like a common knife blade. The chisel style seems to be more efficient in my experience, and it leaves a cleaner cut in the metal. Convex cutters make small holes and take more time to open a can.

    To use a convex opener:
    1. Hook the lip of the can with the open portion of the cutting head.
    2. Lift up on the rear part of the opener to pierce the lid.
    3. Release the pressure on the lid without removing the opener.
    4. Rotate the can a fraction of an inch towards you.
    5. Repeat steps 2-4 until the can is open.

    Concave Cutter

    This is the style that I prefer. The cutting edge is on the inside of the opener, which makes it less likely to damage or be damaged by other things. Most of the concave style openers have a rounded cutting edge rather than a stepped or staged edge. You can see the obvious curve to the cutting edge on the BSA knife.

    The venerable P-38, or John Wayne can opener, is a convex style as the cutting edge is rounded and it pierces and cuts towards the operator. The curved cutting edge gives a smoother and longer cut in the lid with less effort.

    To use a concave opener:
    1. Hook the lip of the can with the open portion of the cutting head.
    2. Lift up on the rear part of the opener to pierce the lid.
    3. Release the pressure on the lid without removing the opener.
    4. Rotate the can a fraction of an inch away from you.
    5. Repeat steps 2-4 until the can is open.
    Using a Knife
    Yes, I have opened cans with a fixed-blade knife before. It's inefficient and damages the point on the knife, but it works if you forgot to pack (or lost) a can opener that weighs a few grams. I've seen a lock-blade knife fail while trying to puncture a #10 can, leading to a lot of blood all over the food we wanted to eat, so I don't recommend using folding knives.

    If you're setting up a Bug Out Location with lots of food stored in #10 cans, I'd suggest you look into getting a commercial-grademanual opener that mounts to a bench; it's much faster and easier than the pliers-type or smaller openers, and once you get used to one they are faster than most electric openers. For a Bug Out Bag, be sure to include a P-38 or the larger P-51 opener. 

    Wednesday, January 15, 2020

    Prudent Prepping: Re-Mixing Right

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

    It pays to have friends who know more than I do, and frankly the list of those friends is pretty long. A reader of the blog asked me if I had looked at a well-known and easily-found powdered drink to use as a recovery aid. I hadn't and was told, "Look it up, you might be surprised!" I was.

    What I missed in my post last week is pretty shocking.

    Emergen-C Vitamin C 1000mg Powder 
    Yes, I know, everyone in my circle has at one time used Emergen-C for cold relief or to attempt to keep from catching a cold. I have some in my GHB and usually have several in my lunch box. This is what is in my pack.

    From the Amazon page:
    • Includes 60 single serving packets (0.32 oz; each) of Emergen-C Original Formula in Super Orange flavor
    • Each serving provides daily immune support* with more Vitamin C than 10 oranges(1)
    • Also contains B Vitamins, Electrolytes, and other Antioxidants like Zinc and Manganese
    • Flavored vitamin mix is made with natural fruit flavors for a delicious Super Orange taste
    • Vitamin C drink mix is a powder that dissolves quickly in water; it’s refreshing and caffeine free
    • Enjoy Emergen-C Original Formula Vitamin C supplement every day for routine wellness
    • Emergen-C Original Formula is also available in gummy and chewable forms
    • When buying, please check whether the product is "Ships from and sold by" just below the product price to make sure you are receiving this product from the manufacturer of Emergen-C to ensure proper product dating 

    The actual contents of Emergen-C look like this:

    When compared to the Dr. Price's that I reviewed in this post, things look different...

    ... different enough to make me rethink my possible choices in what to buy and keep in my stores. I'm not saying one product is bad and don't buy it, what I am saying is to keep looking at what is available, compare and then choose wisely.

    I'm going to keep the Dr. Price's and use it up, but I am absolutely going to repurchase more Emergen-C very soon. 

    Recap And Takeaway
    • Here's a prime example of my smarter, better-informed friends steering me to wiser choices. 
    • Something right in front of my face seems to fit my requirements, is found almost everywhere, and is reasonably priced.
    • Both Dr. Price's mix and Emergen-C mix are available from Amazon.
    • Nothing was purchased this week.
    * * *

    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, January 14, 2020

    The Case for the Instant Pot

    In the past couple years, a kitchen implement called the Instant Pot has taken America by storm. Its primary function is as an automatic pressure cooker, but that's just where the fun starts; it can also function as a slow cooker, rice cooker, or vegetable steamer. In addition, the Instant Pot makes yogurt or certain cheeses quite easily. With so many features, I contend that the Instant Pot is a valuable item in the prepper kitchen.

    Pressure cooking allows you to easily make tough cuts of meat tasty and appealing. It can salvage freezer burned cuts of meat, bringing them back to a nutritious and delicious state, and slow cooking gives cheap meat an excellent taste and texture. All of these qualities are very helpful to the prepper wallet.

    Pressure cooking also drastically reduces the time to cook meals. We made lasagna in ours last night, with a cook time of roughly 30 minutes; normal cooking time is 60-90 minutes, depending on size. Both time and money are things which exist in short supply, and it saves both.

    Vegetables are loaded with nutrients, but so many of the common ways to cook them leach away all the best nutrition. Steaming is one of the least damaging ways to cook vegetables, and an Instant Pot makes that easy and fast as well.

    My favorite Instant Pot trick is one of the newest I've learned: making yogurt. I've loved yogurt since I was a kid, but it can turn into an expensive habit, and now I can make my own for a fraction of the cost of buying it in the store. Even better, homemade yogurt is probiotic, meaning it encourages healthy bacteria growth in the digestive tract. This sounds boring, but it's important for good health, and that's a critical thing to maintain.

    Now to the big sticky question: we're all about being budget friendly here, so what's the damage from this tool getting all of my love? While they often sell upwards of $150, smaller models cost as little as $60, and can often be found for less on sale. This is still not cheap by any means, but it's definitely affordable and well worth the cost. In the near future, I'll share some recipes that demonstrate dramatic enough savings that the cost of an Instant Pot amortizes very quickly.

    Make healthy food faster, prevent food waste, and save money: a prepper wins all around.


    Monday, January 13, 2020

    Food Storage in 2020

    In the past I’ve talked about using grocery store sales as a good way to prep food storage. But a sale price really isn’t a savings if it’s something you don’t eat!

    Godspeed to you all.

    Friday, January 10, 2020

    Repacking My Get Home Bag

    Not actually Erin.
    & is used with permission.
    A while ago (I don't remember exactly when) I came to the conclusion that my definitions of Bug Out Bag and Get Home Bag differed in practice from those of other people. I realized that my GHB was effectively a BOB (three days' worth of food, for example) because unlike my city-bound prepper brethren, if I ever have to walk home due to a disaster I will likely be in the next county over, if not further, due to the semi-rural nature of where I live.

    So that explains some things, such as why I have so many tools in my GHB -- if I'm walking home across a good chunk of the state, I will encounter environments that range from solidly urban to rural swamps and everything in between. It also explains why my actual BOB is much more of an INCH (I'm Not Coming Home) bag: if my GHB is thus, then my BOB needs to be moreso.

    A good way to state this is that I'm an overachiever when it comes to evacuation bags. A less flattering, though no less untrue, version is to state that I chronically overpack. Either way you phrase this it's a problem, as in addition to being overweight and underfit I have also been struggling with chronic back pain since late 2017, and the last thing I need in a disaster where I have to walk for miles is to throw out my back on the first day.

    One of my resolutions for this year was to reduce the weight of my GHB (my BOB is less of an issue due to owning a deer cart). I have only somewhat succeeded in that goal, as the bag itself weighs about 33 pounds and it really ought to be 20 pounds or less. I have removed most of the heavy items, including nearly all of the tools, although as a compromise to myself I've simply moved them into a separate and easily-grabbed bag. My thinking is that I can bring them along in a car so that I have them if I need them, but if I need to walk home I can easy jettison them. 

    My bag is still pretty darn heavy, though, and the biggest offender is water. I have a three liter Camelbak in my GHB, and that equals 6.6 pounds of weight. Without that weight my pack is a much more manageable 26.4 pounds... but this is Florida, and while water is abundant it's also incredibly hot here most of the year. The average human needs a minimum of one gallon of water per day, more if in hot weather or while engaged in hard work, and walking back home can certainly count as that in some environments. I can't just hope to find water, I have to bring it with me. 

    Food only weighs a pound, and I can't really get it much lower than that and still have the calories needed to travel. The rest is shelter (a poncho with grommets that can become a tarp), paracord, a bivvy sack, spare socks and underwear, fire starting equipment, a metal cup for boiling water, etc... in other words, things which are pretty necessary and which I can't in good conscience jettison.  I could possibly distribute some of the items elsewhere on my body to lighten the load (for example, put the knife on my belt) but I don't know if that would make a significant difference or not. 

    At any rate, please consider this post my official notification that I intend to slim down my GHB, with a goal of getting it to at least 30 pounds by the end of the month. Then I'll put it on and go for a one-mile hike and see how my back holds up under that load. 

    Thursday, January 9, 2020

    Superglue for Repairs

    Our illustrious editrix Erin asked me about the potential dangers of using superglue to repair an item that would come into contact with drinking water, which is something that may come up if you're using your gear for a while in rough conditions. Things break, and knowing how to safely repair them is important.

    CAUTION: chemistry ahead!

    Cyanoacrylic glues (there are a few different formulas) may sound like they would be poisonous due to the part of their name which sounds like “cyanide”. This is incorrect; the actual root of the cyan- prefix is merely the Greek word for blue (kyanos), because many blue dyes contain some form of cyanide salt. Cyanide (CN-) is a naturally-occurring anion that reacts with other materials and forms numerous different molecules that form the cyano group, not all of which are dangerous.

    Most people know that CN- was used in various gas-chambers over the years, but it was actually Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN) that did the killing. The spy movie cyanide capsules were Potassium or Sodium Cyanide (KCN or NaCN), which are very toxic and would also create HCN when it reacted with the acid in a person's stomach. The reaction with acid is how most capital punishment gas chambers were set up: a container of acid under the prisoner's chair would have a bag of KCN or NaCN lowered into it by remote control, forming a strong cloud of HCN gas inside the sealed room. HCN kills by blocking the use of oxygen inside the body and it was used as a battlefield chemical weapon in WW1. The Zyklon B used in the gas chambers of Nazi concentration camps was a liquid form of HCN absorbed into diatomaceous earth, HCN melts at 8° F and boils at 78° F, so it will vaporize at room temperature.

    Once dry, cyanoacrylic glue doesn't have any of those dangers. Before I even looked up the specifics, I was able to assure Erin that superglue was food-safe because I've known several people that used it to repair broken dentures over the years with no ill effect. The “liquid sutures” that you see used to bind the edges of minor cuts are nothing more than cyanoacrylic glue. I have used it on myself and various animals, and it does a good job of sealing skin to skin - ask any kid who has superglued his fingers together how strong the bond is. Idiots will concentrate liquid cyanoacrylic glue in a container and “huff” it for the nearly-lethal “high” they will get as their bodies starve for oxygen, but once dried it is safe.

    Looking into the subject a bit deeper, I found that surgeons in the 1960's used it to close wounds on internal organs like the liver, but it wasn't FDA certified for that use until recently because the patent had expired and nobody wanted to spend the millions of dollars that the testing would have required. Cyanoacrylic glue is considered non-toxic, with a rather high LD50* of 5 grams per kilogram of body weight. Compared to NaCN and KCN with a LD50 of 5-10 mg/kg, cyanoacrylic glue is literally a thousand times less toxic.

    * LD50 is a common measure of toxicity. It stands for Lethal Dose for 50% of the test population. If you were to give 100 rats that weigh 1 kg each a dose of 5 g of cyanoacrylic glue, you could expect half of them to die from the dose. Various small mammals are used in such testing, and the results extrapolated based on body weight. It's not an exact measure, but it gives a baseline to measure toxicity. For example, a 100 kg human would require 100 times the dose that a 1 kg rat would. That means that the average American adult would have to ingest about a pound (~500 g) of superglue before hitting the 50/50 lethal dose. Since the glue is sold in packages measured in grams, you'd need a couple of hundred tubes just to get to that 50/50 dose.

    There is however a type of repair that you don't want to use superglue for, and that is anything which will get heated. This will cause the glue to break down, releasing a small amount of HCN gas. The failure of the repair will probably be more of a hazard than the minor amount of toxic gas released, but it is still a hazard. 

    The Fine Print

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

    Creative Commons License

    Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to