Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Electrical Inspections

I've fixed a lot of things in my career, and acquired a few trophies. These are quite educational when demonstrating what to look for when you're checking your home electrical systems.


Monday, March 30, 2020

Friday, March 27, 2020

Protein Preps

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Now that everyone is contemplating their food storage plans, let's talk about the importance of protein in your preps. While the importance of fats and carbohydrates have been addressed in previous BCP articles, I wanted to revisit protein to specifically talk about density per unit.

The Necessity of Protein
Whereas carbohydrates are a quick-burning fuel that can leave you feeling lethargic a few hours afterwards (aka the infamous "sugar crash") and fats provide a long-term but slow release of energy, protein is the happy medium of energy-producing food . Eating a steady amount of protein throughout the day will not only leave you feeling full and satisfied but also give you the energy needed to perform tasks without crashing out.

Getting enough protein is essential to our health, and lack of it can lead to health problems such as:
  • Reduced immune system response
  • Degradation of muscle tone 
  • Increased wound healing times (just one weeping wound requires as much as 100 more grams of protein per day)
  • Cataracts and childhood blindness
Proper amounts of protein are especially needed for the ill, the elderly, and vegans. 

How Much Do I Need?
Most Americans eat more protein than we need for daily nutrition, which is a result of living in a wealthy country. This means that in a survival situation we can get by on less than we usually eat, although we won't be happy about it.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein for a healthy adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, although some believe that to be on the low side, especially if you are extremely active or trying to gain muscle. For more information I encourage you to follow the link above.

I wish to point out that I am not trying to lecture anyone on their diet; why I mentioned this ratio of grams per pound will be made clear in the next section.


Protein Density for Food Storage
Since we're all stuck at home to avoid catching COVID-19, it's important that we eat well so that we can keep our immune system strong. However, it's also important that we have the right foods put away, as we all have a limited amount of space for our food storage. Please consult this chart when you re-stock your pantry so that you can optimize your food preps.

Complete Proteins
A complete protein or whole protein is a food source of protein that contains an adequate proportion of each of the nine essential amino acids necessary in the human diet. Complete proteins come from animals (including seafood, eggs, and dairy) and the soy family of legumes (edamame, tempeh, soy nuts, tofu, soy milk).

Protip: If you are storing canned foods such as tuna and salmon, get them packed in oil instead of water. The oil will add additional nutrition along with some essential fats.

Incomplete Proteins
These are proteins which are insufficient by themselves but combine with another incomplete protein group to make a complete protein. You do not need to eat both groups of incomplete protein in the same meal; your body is able to assemble a complete protein from different meals so long as you eat them on the same day. Incomplete protein groups are legumes, grains, and nuts & seeds.



When it comes time to re-stock your prepper pantry, keep this chart in mind.


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Welcome, New Preppers!

Ah, spring, the time of year when anything can happen and usually does, including rain, snow, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and fires all over the place... and that's just Monday. The world is going through a rough patch right now and lots of people are starting to look at prepping in a different way. Some are admitting that maybe, just maybe, having some things set aside for emergencies isn't such a bad idea. Others are demanding that all of those “hoarders” be punished and their supplies redistributed to those who couldn't be bothered to plan ahead. The truly evil are looking at ways to take what they want and are looking for opportunities, while ordinary people are stepping up and providing supplies and services to their neighbors. Everyone is getting an education on prepping, whether they wanted it or not.

If you're new to the idea of prepping, welcome to the family. We're not all a bunch of greedy psychopaths looking to take your money in exchange for some piece of gear with dubious utility or longevity, and here at Blue Collar Prepping, we deal in information and teaching instead of sales and marketing. You may have noticed the shortage of ads: no flashing banners or pop-ups, no email harvesting, no books or classes for sale. For the last six years we've been cranking out new articles almost every Monday through Friday to try to enlighten and entertain our readers. None of us have gotten rich off of this; in fact, several of us have lost money. We do it because we think you, the reader, should have good information about a topic that we think is important.

We also welcome questions and guest articles if you need or have specific information pertaining to prepping. There is a search box in the upper left-hand corner of the blog page that will let you check out our archive of articles. After six years we have over 1700 of them, so you may find some of what you're looking for in a previous post.

The writers do have a few rules that have served us well.
  • We Have No Politics. I stretch this one some days, but most of the time we avoid taking sides in political issues. There are few things in today's world more divisive than politics, and we're not here to drive anyone away. Everybody deserves the information they need to survive an emergency, regardless of their political party or other “difference”. There are plenty of other blogs and webpages out there that cover the political sphere, and this is not one of them.
  • We Promote No Specific Religion. This is close to the rule above, and is important because the writing pool is such a mixture of differing beliefs that we'd all quit if anyone tried to push their specific religion. As I have explained to a few, I'm a Chaplain, but I am not likely your Chaplain. I'm not here to push my beliefs; I'm here to pass on information on other matters.
  • We Do Not Give Sales Pitches. Several of our writers have personal businesses, but you won't see them pushing their wares here. Our product reviews are done mainly on items that we have purchased with out own money (and on the rare occasions when an item was donated for testing & evaluation will state so), and we are not afraid to be honest in our reviews. If something is worthless, we'll let you know so you don't waste your money.
  • We Keep It Personal. Most of our writing is based on personal experience, not a regurgitation of something we read in a book but have never tried ourselves. If we don't know something, we're not going to lie to you and say we do. The writers are scattered across geological, educational, ideological, age, and lifestyle divides, so we can probably find someone with personal experience on most matters.
  • We Are Reasonable in Scope. The blog's name is Blue Collar Prepping, so you're not going to find descriptions of 10,000 sq ft “Doomsday Bunkers” or maps of where to fly your plane to escape a hurricane. We're working-class folks and we try to keep in mind that most people have to live within a budget.
  • We Are Civil. We don't deride or ridicule anyone other than a few really obnoxious snake oil salesmen out there. We'll call out a charlatan, but we welcome questions and differing opinions. Conspiracy theories and racist commentary are a good way to get blocked and ignored around here, as they serve no constructive purpose and hinder the flow of information.

Other than the blog, there are several ways to reach us:
There are no stupid questions, and we were all new to prepping at one time, so feel free to ask us anything. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Prudent Prepping: When Is Good Enough 'Good Enough'?

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

I went through my lunch box, GHB and sling bag the past weekend. Again.

I looked at the stored food in the house. Again.

I looked at the stack of totes containing my camping gear, fishing supplies and what I call my Bug Out Gear. Left that alone, as there's not enough time or space to lay things out and sort through even half a tote.

This made me think about something that's been rolling around in my head for a bit.

When Are Things 'Good Enough'?
I have things that have been mine for over 30 years: a very nice North Face down sleeping bag I bought from a gear rental place, when it needed patching; a second poly-fill bag that won't compact down as small, but is best in summer and fall; fishing gear that I'm certain my Grandpa gave me; a dual fuel, old-school Coleman camp stove.

Some of the newer items I have since writing here are:
... to name just a few. I paid for every single one of them from my own earnings and savings. There were sometimes a dozen different items, all very close to each other in quality or performance, and many of them were hard to choose from the selection offered on Amazon and elsewhere. What I've had to do, once I narrowed the choices, is look at what things cost. Yes I know, cost isn't the only thing that matters, but it is certainly an important part of my decisions. The name of this blog is Blue Collar Prepping for a reason.

Most of us, including myself, are working for a living at someone else's business and not our own, so when I want to add to my gear I have to balance performance and cost, which leads me to the problem of  "What is good enough for me?"

How To Decide
I've never been able to just go and buy what is out there. I read everything I can, and on more than one blog or site the commenters look down their noses at everyone who isn't running the very best and exclusive gear. In my opinion and in many cases, the difference between what I choose and the very best is a small difference in performance but a giant leap in price. Once I find things I like, one price-reducing option is buying used, like my sleeping bag -- if I had to replace it with a comparable model today, I'd need to spend over $400. I looked at some of the places that rent and what I did find were things I didn't want, because they were too worn or not worth the asking price.

This has made choosing what I buy somewhat easier as I get older, since I find that what I want in many cases are the actual brands many of the upper crust moved on from. If it was the brand/model/type that was their first choice, it certainly will be good enough for me!

I'd really like to hear for all of you what is your favorite "Good Enough" item and how you decided it fit that category in your gear!

Recap And Takeaway
  • Nothing was purchased this week, and the things I wanted to test were delayed by Amazon.
  • Look at your things and see if you are happy with what you have.

* * *

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Disaster Anxiety

Last week, my area experienced a 5.7 magnitude earthquake with the epicenter was only a few miles from my house. Everyone is fine, damage was minor, and there were no injuries or fatalities, but many people were left with severe anxiety, made worse by frequent strong aftershocks.

I'd like to share a message from the Utah Division of Emergency Management, taken directly from their Facebook page.


Friday, March 20, 2020

Social Distancing: Week 1

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Hello, preppers! How is everyone doing after this crazy week? That's a question I asked yesterday in our Facebook group and there have been quite a number of replies to that. A lot of our newer preppers are quite worried, and so that post has become a place where people can ask questions or express concerns without judgement, and they've been getting excellent replies by our more experienced members. I invite you all to drop by, join if you aren't members, and make use of this resource.

I'm actually doing quite well. I'm an introvert and rarely leave the house more than once a week (I have a designated "chore day" where I put on pants and brace myself to deal with people), so this is barely affecting me. When I did go outside this week, I found myself enjoying the lack of congestion. I know this can't last forever and that businesses can't prosper if everyone stays away, but at this moment I find myself really enjoying all the extra space and wishing that social distancing were something we could adopt year-round.

When I was done with my errands, I wiped down with  a Lysol disinfecting sheet everything in the car which I'd touched with my hands -- don't forget both sides of the car door handle! -- then went inside the house, wiped down the doorknob with the same sheet, and went to the bathroom to wash my hands.

I don't worry about getting sick with COVID-19. I'm healthy enough that I don't think catching it will put me in the hospital, and I'm still young enough that even if it happens I have a near-certain chance of survival. My main concern is bringing it home to my parents, who are both in their 80s. My mother has no underlying conditions to make her more vulnerable, but my father has cardiac problems, hypertension, pre-diabetes, and a persistent hacking cough which he's had for decades (probably as a result of smoking in the 1960s), which means that if he contracts the disease it's practically a death sentence for him.

And yet, both my parents decided to go to church last Sunday and went grocery shopping last weekend, last Wednesday, and will go again tomorrow. I think it's foolish of them, but they're adults who know the risks, and I've learned through repeated hurricane evacuations that they won't listen to me when it comes to things like this. So if they do end up catching the disease, it's more likely that they caught it themselves rather than catching it from me. (I know that mom wipes car surfaces with a Lysol wipes but I don't know what precautions dad takes, if any.)

It's always strange to be living through a moment which I know is historical, a moment where I realize "This is a point where we will measure things as being before or after this." I felt this on 9/11, and I'm feeling it now; our society will definitely change as a result of this weeks-long lockdown, if not outright from deaths. I just hope we learn the right lessons from this, such as "Everyone should have at least a month's worth of supplies in their home" and "First responders may not always respond, so have the tools and skills necessary" and "Home schooling isn't a bad idea".  Alternatively, we could learn the wrong lessons from this and end up losing more freedom as government exerts more control over our lives to prevent things like this from happening again. At this point, I don't know which is more likely.

Finally, I'm going to give everyone a recipe for what to do when you run out of  toilet paper.
  1. Gather up clean but unusable cotton fabric, like old t-shirts and torn bedsheets.
  2. Give them all a good washing. 
  3. Cut them into toilet squares (4"x4").
  4. Use these as you would toilet paper to wipe after urination. 
  5. Placed used fabric squares into a lidded container until laundry day. 
  6. Launder the squares with soap and water to remove the urine from them. 
For cleaning yourself after defecating:
  1. Find a washcloth that you won't use on your face. 
  2. Wet the washcloth under a running faucet. 
  3. Wipe until you are clean. This may require you to rinse the cloth under running water. 
  4. When you are fully wiped, get the washcloth soapy to kill any bacteria, then wring it out and let it hang dry. 
  5. Wash your hands as normal. 

I hope you find this information useful. Stay strong, and remember that there's no shame in asking for help or seeking reassurance. Depend on your preps, maintain a positive attitude, and we will all get through this. 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Cricket Firestarters

The other day I had to stop at a discount tool shop because I needed a fair quality hammer drill that would likely not survive the job I had for it, and I didn't want to spend a lot of money on it. While there, I wandered through their bins of assorted toys, tools, and miscellaneous crap and found a packaged firestarter for $1.99. Always looking for something new to try, I grabbed a few boxes to test and here's what I found.
  • Cricket firestarters are a compressed wood pulp stick, impregnated with wax, with a strike-on-box head like a common kitchen match. The box has the striker patch on the side like a box of matches and the sticks have a sizeable head on them, so getting one lit is simple.
  • Somewhere between a lifeboat match and a tinder ball, this product combines the ignition and long burn time of the two. That means you can carry one thing instead of two if you're looking to down-size a pack.
  • They advertise them as a 5 minute starter, so I timed a few. Of the four I lit, they varied between 5 and 6 minutes of burn time with a flame as long as the stick itself. When they burn out it is rather sudden, without much dimming of the flame.
  • I tested them outside on a mild day with variable winds around 10 mph and they showed no sign of being blown out by the wind. The flames did move with the wind, so they'd need to be kept close to your tinder. 
  • The flame was a bright yellow, similar to a candle flame, which makes sense since the wax is what was burning. The pulped wood left a small pile of ashes.
  • The instructions on the box suggest using one to three sticks to start a fire. From what I witnessed a single stick should suffice if you have paper, dry grass, wood shavings, or some other fine tinder. Trying to light twigs or wood splits would require two or more at a time to get enough heat and flame to get a quick burn. 
  • I did find them on Amazon, but at a much higher price. eBay and a few other online sources were all the same, $6 - $10 per box of 20, rather than the $1.99 I found them for. Reading a few reviews, it seems that these pop up in various "dollar" stores once in a while, so it may be worth keeping your eyes open for these. 


All told, I'm impressed with this product. It does what it advertises, and if you can find them at the price I did they'll make a good addition to a cache or vehicle bag. They're a bit bulky for a bug-out bag, but if you have the room they'd be a good third or fourth method of starting a fire.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Night Vision Binoculars (Way Longer Than) 90 Day Test

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

Back in July 2019(!), I mentioned that I bought some inexpensive night vision binoculars from one of the stores I call on. I've had a chance to try them several different times, and so it's time for a review.

Well past time, actually, but here it is!

Night Hero Binoculars 


From the Amazon page:
Wish you could see what goes bump in the night? Out camping and are weary or the local wildlife? Harness the power of night vision goggles in a convenient, everyday pair of binoculars! Atomic Beam Night Hero Binoculars give you optimal day vision and night vision. Thanks to the special atomic beam laser you’ll see objects hidden in the darkness from 150-yards away.
To be clear, these night vision binoculars use an emitter to illuminate your area of view. They are adequate as binoculars for day use, and at night I can see quite a distance clearly enough to plan out where to walk. I don't have an area where I can measure 150 yards and try to see clearly, but I do know that at what I estimate is 50-75 yards I can see well enough to walk through an unlit park without any problem.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I didn't know about battery life and I still don't know exactly how long the batteries will last with constant use. I've used them twice a month since July, and from November up to late February I've used these to spot wildlife around my place, all on the same set of batteries. I would guess the total run time to be maybe 3 hours, so I like to think that this has been a realistic usage. I suppose I could hold the switch down, but I wanted to give the binoculars a real world test.

I missed having some inexpensive binoculars that I could haul everywhere and not really worry about. The quality of the lenses is good enough for spotting on a 100 yard range, in good light with reactive targets. 

I'm keeping mine.

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, March 17, 2020

Incendiary Lemons

The world needs a little fun right now. In an attempt at fun, I tried starting a fire with a lemon!

Sergei embraces his chance to become internet famous.


Friday, March 13, 2020

Social Distancing and Flattening the Curve

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
By this point we've all heard about social distancing and flattening the curve. We know that events are being cancelled and schools are telling students not to leave for spring break, or to go home and do their learning online.  We've heard about the travel bans and we're all watching Italy. It's safe to say that a lot of people are scared and even more people are concerned.

I'm here to tell you that concern is warranted but fear is not. We are preppers, and we are ready for this. We all ought to have at least a month's worth of food, water and other supplies in our homes, which means we don't have to engage in panic buying. This is a bug-in event, and despite fears of "social disruption" it appears that there will be no disruption or loss of critical resources like water pressure, electricity, communications or emergency services, which will make this a lot easier than some of the disasters for which you've practiced. Unless you or a family member is immunocompromised or otherwise in a high-risk group, this is no worse than hunkering down for a Category 2 hurricane, or taking shelter in your basement during a tornado warning. It may be a little bumpy, but we'll all get through this as long as we follow appropriate recommendations.

If you or a loved one is at higher risk for infection, then things are a bit more complicated, but you can handle this. You know what you need to do to keep from infecting them/yourself, and social distancing right now is actually the best thing for them and for you. It is a drastic action that will hopefully be seen as an overreaction in later months, but a scenario where people go "This was all a big nothing" is actually our best case. To put it another way, think of this like carrying a gun for self-defense: you aren't afraid of being attacked or victimized, but you acknowledge the possibility exists and so you take adequate precautions.

Flattening the Curve
For sake of completeness, here are things you can do to minimize infection of yourself and others:
  • Wash your hands before touching your face, eating food, or interacting with the at-risk. Wash your hands after sneezing in them, using the toilet, or interacting with strangers. 

  • Practice social distancing by staying out of areas where a lot of people go (unless those areas are being cleaned regularly), avoiding mass gatherings (more than 10 people) and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.
  • Use disinfectant wipes on things you must touch, such as door knobs, grocery carts, etc. If you're opening a package, either wipe it down or spray it with an aerosol before touching it, or wash your hands afterwards. (Or both.)
  • Sneeze or cough into the elbow of your non-dominant arm.
  • Avoid being around people who have been out of the country, or who are sneezing and/or coughing, or who have been in areas where COVID-19 is present. (As COVID-19 is highly contagious with a long incubation period, the answer to that last category could very well be "everywhere", which is why social distancing has been implemented.)
  • Wear masks if and only if you are sick (to prevent transmitting your illness to others) or if you are interacting with the immunocompromised or at-risk (to prevent infecting them if you are in the incubation period). 

Social Distancing
(Special thanks to my friend Cathy Madsen who wrote this for her Facebook wall earlier and who gave me permission to include this.)

If you are frustrated at the thought of social distancing -- not in the sense of  "How will I get access to essential services?" but rather " How long am I going to be stuck in this house?", here are a few ideas to help you get through it with your sanity intact:
  1. Downsize events and move them to your place. I guarantee that you can sanitize your house better than harried staff can sanitize a restaurant or event space. Your house could probably use a good cleaning anyway -- mine certainly does. 
  2. Take events outside if weather permits. Sunshine and fresh air will not cure you if you're sick, but it's harder for the viral particles to survive on surfaces exposed to the elements, especially ultraviolet light. As a bonus, movement outdoors is good for you and will help those feeling cooped-up (especially children) burn off some energy. 
  3. Order groceries and supplies to be delivered to your door or car-side pickup rather than shopping onsite. If you must shop onsite, try to pick less crowded times; many chain grocery stores are open until after 10 PM, and they are pretty sparsely attended at that hour. The same goes for Walmart and drug stores (CVS, Walgreens, etc). 
  4. Make a deal with another parent to swap days if you're stuck at home with young children. In an ideal situation they can entertain each other while you get some work done, and then the next day is your chance for peace and quiet.
  5. If you need restaurant food, call it in and go pick it up. Tip anyway, so that the employees can keep their jobs.
  6. The same goes for any businesses you want to support. The larger ones like Walmart or Home Depot have "find online and pickup in store" options, and smaller ones will be delighted to take your phone call and set stuff aside for pickup.
  7. If you are spiritually inclined, practice doing your devotions at home. Most traditions say you should be doing this anyway in addition to attending whatever service; now's the time to demonstrate your paying-attention skills.
Don't Forget Your Tribe
Just because we are distancing ourselves socially doesn't mean this is "everyone for themselves". We are an incredibly connected society, so check in on people by telephone or email or Facebook to see if they're all right. If you're healthy and they aren't, ask of there is something you can do for them. The last thing we need right now is societal breakdown, so check on your neighbors and help them out. There's plenty that you can do for them without risking infection, and there might be a time when you're sick and they're healthy and you can ask them to return the favor.

Final Words
I won't lie, we do have concerns ahead of us. There is a very real possibility that we will experience an economic downturn due to lost revenue from social distancing; however, that is in the future and not a matter for immediate worry. I'm not an expert on finances so I can't tell you what you should do, but now would be a good time to consult with a financial expert about how to reduce expenses and maximize savings and investments.

Again, we are preppers: we have this covered. Rely on your preps and use your best judgement to avoid risky situations -- in other words, keep doing what we always do when events or the environment act outside the norm -- and we ought to get through this with little difficulty.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Fertilizer Basics: Natural

Last week I covered commercial chemical fertilizers for gardening or farming. Commercial fertilizers are common because they are fast acting, allowing a farmer the chance to tailor his fertilizer to his crop and change what gets planted as the weather and markets change. For example, corn needs nitrogen while soybeans don't, and there are several other differences between crop requirements. Cash crops are different than gardening in that a garden will be planned out at least a year ahead and the plants will all have similar fertilizer needs.This will allow a gardener to use slower methods of fertilizing their ground and still get a good yield.

Natural fertilizers all start with some sort of animal waste. The feces and urine produced while raising animals has to go somewhere, so why not use it to our advantage rather than just disposing of it? Growing feed using animal wastes creates a cycle of nutrients that is easier to maintain and mimics the way the Earth has worked for as long as animals have been around.

Animal wastes mixed with straw, sawdust, or other bedding material is referred to as manure. The stuff you have the kids mucking out of the stables and stalls is a good source of plant nutrients once it has been treated a bit, depending on the type of animal it came from. Many manures or droppings are too concentrated to be applied to a garden; the high nitrogen content makes them too "hot" for young plants and will kill them. We need to break some of those manures down a bit to make them suitable for plant use and to do that we need to compost them.

Lokidude covered the basics of composting a while back: pile it up, keep it moist but not wet, and turn the pile over every few days to keep it aerated are the main points. (The different designs of compost heaps and their operations are a topic for a dedicated gardener, which I am not, so if you have pointers or instructions please contact us and we'll get you to write a guest post.) Composting eliminates a lot of the odors of the manure and breaks down the more complex chemical into forms that plants can use more easily. If done at a high enough temperature, a compost pile can also eliminate many disease-causing microbes (pathogens) from certain manures. Composted manure should be applied at least 120 days before harvest for root crops, and at least 90 days before harvest for other crops, to avoid pathogenic contamination.

Making a simple "tea" out of manure will dilute the hot ones and is a lot quicker than a compost pile. Simply place the manure in a container and add water to get 5 to 10 times the amount of the manure, let it sit for a few days, stirring it once a day, and then strain the solids out and use the liquid as plant food.

A third method is to work the fresh manure into the top foot of soil in the fall and let it break down over the winter. The four to six months of  contact with soil, and the microbes present in it, will break down most of the manure and create a good place to plant seeds in the spring.

Types by Animal
The various types of manure can be classified by the kind of animal that produced it. A quick-and-dirty version is by their eating habits.

Herbivores are common food animals and they can be further separated by digestive methods.
  • Ruminants have multiple stomachs (usually 4) and chew a cud. The will eat plants and store some in their first gut (rumen), bringing it back up to be chewed on some more after they have found a place to rest. These are your sheep, goats, cows, and deer. Ruminant manure is a good general-purpose fertilizer with a good blend of nutrients and a fairly low nitrogen content, so it is less likely to burn young plants.
  • Other herbivores like horses and mules are monogastric and have only one stomach. Food passes through them much faster and doesn't break down as well in the animal. Expect to find viable weed seeds in the manure, which will require a composter kept at 140° for a few days to kill them.
  • Rabbits are a pseudo-ruminant. They have a single stomach and rely on bacteria in their gut to break down plants. Rabbit manure is a good choice for fertilizer, and there never seems to be a shortage of it if you're raising them.

Omnivores like pigs and humans are poor choices for manure. The amount of pathogens present requires a high temperature (140° or higher) or longer retention time (up to a year) to remove. I covered composting toilets in an article, so I'm not going to repeat it all here; there are books written about how to close the gap in our current food production cycle, and see the links titled "Humanure" below. Omnivore manures also tend to smell worse than that of herbivores, but that may just be a cultural thing.

Carnivores like cats and dogs share the risks of omnivores, with the addition of nasty things like roundworms and toxoplasmosis. These are not safe to use on food crops, but once composted they can be used to feed trees and shrubs.

I'll leave a few links at the bottom of the page in case you're looking for more information. Properly feeding your plant will let them produce more food for you in the same amount of space, so it is an important aspect of gardening for preppers.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Deals Difficult To Pass Over

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

As per usual, I can't make these ideas stretch into stand-alone posts, so enjoy a smorgasbord.

Home Security
A friend recently had her purse stolen right outside her door. She wasn't hurt, but did lose a lot of personal and business ID and keys. The complex is reasonably well-lit, but this happened late in the afternoon so extra light wouldn't have helped. What will help, however, are the cameras that are going in alongside with the new lights. This will be a Work in Progress, so I will be posting what is being installed and how easy or difficult the process turns out.

Bring All The Fire
As usual, I'm on the lookout for bargains during my business calls and I found another deal that was too hard to pass over. I always want extra ways to start fires and discovered in my travels Diamond Weatherproof Matches.
A local Home Depot

From the Home Depot ad found through a Google search:
Diamond weatherproof matches are windproof and waterproof. They are guaranteed to stay lit for up to 25-seconds and will re-light even after being submerged in water. Stay prepared for any emergencies at home or use while camping or hiking.
These are not packed in a fancy watertight container like my favorite UCO Stormproof Matches, but they'll go into my regular camping supplies instead of my GHB or BOB.

They look very much like the UCO and every other long burning match, and since Diamond is one of the oldest and now the largest match companies, they may be to source! I will have to open the box and compare the Diamond matches with the UCO.

Diamond had a large facility here in N. California that operated from 1901 until the middle 1980's, but is now abandoned.

I do recommend looking in your local Home Depot if you are interested in these, since they are definitely on Close Out, with limited supply in my area.

Recap And Takeaway
  • Matches were the only thing purchased this week, with two boxes picked up from Home Depot. Interestingly, I did not find the Diamond matches listed on Amazon.

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Real World Solar Charging

I've said in the past that my camp trailer is a huge part of my emergency plans, and that still holds true. Part of using my trailer as a bug out vehicle is being prepared to be as off-grid as possible, and that means learning to live on limited resources.

This winter, my parents gifted me a set of RV solar panels that they have no real use for as virtually all of their RV time is spent in parks with full hookups. Most of mine is as well, but there are places that I enjoy camping that do not have utilities at each site. In these places, you're constrained to what you can haul and what you can generate, and these constraints mean I have 58 gallons of water and whatever amperage my batteries are charged to when I leave home. When I reach the ends of that, I need to either be headed home or have a way to resupply.

Today we'll look at recharging those batteries. Without an electrical outlet to plug into, my charging options are pretty limited:
  1. I can hook my truck electrical system to the trailer, similar to jump starting, but that's very inefficient and doesn't provide a good charge to RV batteries. 
  2. I can hook a generator to my trailer and create 120v power, which works very well with regards to convenience and utility, but it is quite loud, which the neighbors don't appreciate. Generators are also fairly heavy, require regular maintenance, and take up quite a bit of space. 
  3. Use a small solar array.

We've discussed solar power before in various use cases, but not this particular one. RV solar arrays are easily portable, collapsing into a footprint that fits easily into storage compartments. They're commonly available with up to a 400 watt output, with the majority of them being in the 100-200 watt range. They're not big enough to effectively power home systems, but they provide far more power than the small cell phone type solar chargers.

The panel I have is a single-pane 40 watt panel with a 7 amp charge controller. This means that I could add a second panel on the same charge controller without any other parts. 40 watts isn't enough to power everything in my trailer, especially not for an extended period, but what it can do is buy me a fair bit more time in the wilderness, especially if I'm careful how much power I use. Also, I don't expect to get full rated output on a solar panel. Weather conditions can reduce output, as overcast skies reduce the amount of sunlight the panel receives. Higher latitudes also cut into your output, as the sunlight is more indirect. How much real-world loss that amounts to has yet to be seen, but once I hook up the panel to my trailer I'll put a meter on it to test. Fortunately, RV style panels are highly mobile, and can be aimed into the sunlight throughout the day to maximize output.

Once I have actual power generation numbers, I can compare them to my battery storage capacity and consumption numbers to determine exactly how far I can stretch my power budget. If I were buying panels, I'd run the calculations beforehand and buy panels sized to my needs, but since these panels were free, the math gets run backwards to see how far they'll take me.


Thursday, March 5, 2020

Fertilizer Basics: Chemical

It's been 4 or 5 years since I mentioned fertilizer chemistry, and with spring around the corner a lot of farmers and gardeners are getting ready to plant this year's crop. The science of soil chemistry is a college-level subject, but I'll try to cover the basics and give you a base to build upon.

I'm not going to get into which fertilizer you will need for each crop or condition; that's an industry in itself known as Agronomy and I don't have the space to cover everything here. Do your research on what you're going to grow and take notes on what to look for that indicates possible nutrient deficiency. Unfortunately, without access to a lab and soil sample, you'll have to plan your fertilizer use by how the previous year's crop did.

Fertilizer is anything you add to the soil to provide nutrients that your plants need to grow and yield. A properly fertilized filed or garden will produce more and better food, so the cost of the fertilizer is usually offset by the increase in yield. This applies even if you're growing flowers: a properly fed row of flowers will give you more and bigger blooms and leaves, which is handy if you're growing herbs. Trees can also benefit from being fed the right things, especially when they are transplanted or young, as getting a good start means a longer life and a sturdier tree. I'll look at commercial (chemical) fertilizers in this post and cover manures and organics later.

Chemistry Ahead!
Plants require various chemicals to grow and produce fruit. They can pull carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen from the air and water around them, but they also need two classes of nutrients in smaller quantities.

Macro-nutrients are needed in fairly large amounts and are used in the production of the building blocks of life like carbohydrates and proteins.
  • Nitrogen (N): Essential for protein synthesis.
  • Phosphorus (P): Used to create new cells for growth and allow stored food energy to be converted to chemical energy.
  • Potassium (K): Helps maintain water balance and transpiration in the leaves of plants.
  • Sulfur (S): Part of many amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.
  • Calcium (Ca): An important part of nutrient transport through a plant and used in enzyme production.
  • Magnesium (Mg): Used in the photosynthesis of sunlight to carbohydrates.

Micro-nutrients are trace elements that are required in much smaller doses for optimal health, like the vitamins we give children. 
  • Zinc (Zn): Mostly used by the plant in growth regulation and protein production, one of the main limiting factors in plant yield.
  • Iron (Fe): Used in enzymes and helps make other nutrients available to the plant. Fe is also critical in the production of lignin, which is part of the plant stem or stalk.
  • Manganese (Mn): Makes S and P more available to the plant and is also used in enzyme production.
  • Boron (B): An important part of building and maintaining cell walls within the plant.
  • Chlorine (Cl): Important for many energy-transfer reactions within the plant, this one is rarely in short supply.
  • Copper (Cu): Activates many enzymes and is used in protein production.
  • Molybdenum (Mo): Used in the root systems to help bacteria bind N into a form that plants can use.

Commercial fertilizer is usually marked with a series of numbers separated by hyphens. The macro-nutrient chemicals are listed in the order of N-P-K and represent the percentage of each available in that fertilizer. These are the three numbers you will see on most bags of fertilizer in the garden shops and big-box stores. Urea is a common form of N, and it will be marked 46-0-0.

Some specialty fertilizers will have more than three numbers, with S and Zn being next in the list, so you may see something like 12-40-0-10-1 which tells you it has 12% N, 40% P, 0% K, 10% S, and 1% Zn. Ammonium Sulfate, a common fertilizer used to lower the pH of soil, would be designated 21-0-0-24 (sometimes 21-0-0-24S). Boron, Iron, and the others are usually designated with their chemical symbols.

Commercial fertilizers are heavily regulated, I have inspectors from the state come by and grab samples of what we sell every few months. The lab tests ensure that we're not “cutting” the expensive stuff with cheaper chemicals to cheat our customers, and I get the results back to make sure my suppliers aren't cheating me. Certain chemicals lend themselves to, let's say, “recreational” uses and are further controlled by various government agencies, and a certain monster that I will not name blew up most of a federal building with a rental truck full of fertilizer-based explosives resulting in that form of fertilizer no longer being on the market.

The meth labs used to steal anhydrous ammonia (NH3) for one of the steps in their recipe, so we had to have locks on every single valve on every single tank that holds it. The cartels in Mexico can make meth in bulk and ship it cheaper than the idiots can make it locally, so we've seen a huge drop-off in NH3 thefts. I used to get Sulfur in 2000 pound bags, but since a person can use it to make black powder the BATFE has made it a paperwork nightmare today.

Be careful of what you stockpile; if you ever end up in the news, some things can be reported as “bomb-making materials” or “drug-making chemicals”.

With the distinct possibility of disruption of  the delivery of food (and other goods), growing some of your own food is always a good thing to try. If nothing else, you'll have fresh food that you know you can trust.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Sharing What You Have

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

It shouldn't be a surprise that the current news is filled with videos (some faked) of not-quite empty shelves at Costco, Sam's Club and grocery stores. Many people don't have a week's worth of groceries in their house. Now, since this current excitement is fairly slow-moving, most people will have time to get enough to see them through a couple weeks if their job or the kids school decides to close up for a bit.. but what about people that get a little behind the curve and miss out on really necessary supplies? What do they do?

To Share or Not to Share: 
There is no Question
I have a friend that has a child with Cystic Fibrosis. If you don't know what that is, here is a short explanation from Medical News Today:

Fast facts on cystic fibrosis
  • Cystic fibrosis (CF) involves the production of mucus that is much thicker and more sticky than usual.
  • It mainly affects the lungs and digestive system.
  • CF is a hereditary condition that occurs in a child when both parents have the defective gene.
  • All newborns in the U.S. are screened for CF.
  • There is no cure, but good nutrition and taking steps to thin mucus and improve mucus expectoration can help.
So the child is susceptible to lung problems, some of them potentially life-threatening. This isn't a good place to be with a virus that causes lung problems, and my friend was blindsided by all the crazy buying and missed out on masks for his family. (Not N95 but N100, to keep the rest of his family as far from infecting the kid as possible.) They also didn't have disinfectant spray, but they did have plenty of bleach, gloves and food for a couple weeks, and plans to Bug Out to an isolated area, if conditions get stupid. 

Now, I don't see what's happening now as anything close to an apocalyptic event, so I chose to share information and gear with them. I gave them my extra spray disinfectant as well as a lead on where to get masks. 

How likely are you to have anyone this close to what I call A Very Bad Thing happening? I hope the answer is "Not likely at all."

What To Do
  • Check in on your friends and family. My parents are quite elderly, and I'm telling them to stay in, don't go out unless absolutely necessary, and don't let anyone visit or drop in. I'm setting them up with food, and if they need anything I'll shop and leave a box on the porch.
  • Check in on any widows/widowers, especially the men. My dad can do things for himself, but my mom has taken care of him forever that I don't know what he'd do without her.
  • Do you know any single parents? Look in on them to see how they are doing and if they are set for keeping themselves protected. 
  • Have any single young people at work or that you know? They may be in the same boat as the older folks, not knowing what to do or having the cash to do much.
  • To be honest, I've had people check on me this past week. They don't know what I do in my spare time, they just know I'm single and want to know I'm doing okay. It's really nice to have friends.

Recap And Takeaway
  • Be smart with what you have, both knowledge and equipment. You never know who might be able to return the favor in the future.
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but my stores are being gone over to see what might be extra or able to be shared with out doing with less here.
* * *

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Choose the Right Shoes: Why Tire Selection Matters

In the BCP Facebook group comments on last week's post, my buddy Kent mentioned that tire selection was a critical part of maintaining traction in your vehicle, and he's not wrong. The right tire can make all the difference in your drive, but the wrong tire can ruin your day.

Car people sometimes refer to tires as "shoes," and the analogy is an appropriate one for our purposes. If you were to look in my closet, you'd see hard-toed work boots, running shoes, and a couple pairs of Vans. Each of these types of shoes has a particular purpose, just like each type of tire has a particular purpose.

My truck wears A/T, or "all terrain" tires. These tires are made of a tough rubber compound with many layers or "plies" of rubber and heavy lugs on the tread. Think of these as work boots or hiking boots for your car. They provide great durability and traction, at the cost of noise, ride comfort, and fuel economy.

My wife's SUV rides on all-season tires. They're a decent general purpose tire, OK for everything but not particularly good at anything. They provide a good balance of ride comfort, fuel economy, and quiet running, but gain that by trading durability and traction. They're usually made of a softer rubber, with fewer layers. They also tend to have smaller, lighter tread lugs, but can be had in heavier patterns. These are kind of like my Vans.

My sports car runs a performance tire. Much like a running shoe, this is a more narrow selection window. These tires offer great traction on dry roads, with a very soft compound and minimalist lugs on the tread. They tend to wear out quickly, and offer virtually no grip on wet or snowy roads, or in cold weather. These are only really effective on good weather days, and running them outside of those conditions presents an increased risk.

I also have a pair of snow boots in my closet. Think of dedicated snow tires as snow boots for your car. They're only really appropriate in the season of snow and cold, but when they're called for, there is nothing better. They offer the maximum traction in cold, wet, snowy conditions, but wear quickly when run in hot environments. Some are also made with steel studs. These tires are only appropriate in areas where the snow and ice never completely clear, and in many areas are illegal to run outside of particular dates considered to be "winter driving season." The most common way to use and preserve snow tires is to buy an inexpensive pair of spare wheels for your vehicle, and keep the snow tires mounted on those. At the beginning of winter, you simply remove your summer wheels and tires from your drive wheels and put on the snow set. As winter comes to an end, swap back to the summer tires and store your snows until Old Man Winter comes knocking again.

Pick the right shoes for the job your feet are doing. Pick the right tires for the job your vehicle is doing.


Monday, March 2, 2020

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 amazon.com.