Thursday, January 28, 2021

Soothing Flames

Fire is one of humanity's oldest tools, and one we've spent some time writing about it here. Building a campfire isn't difficult to do well, but a poorly laid fire won't burn as efficiently and will be harder to light and keep lit. Fire is important to a prepper for its many uses: fireplaces and wood stoves produce heat for some of our houses, candles and liquid-fueled lamps can provide light, and gas or oil stoves/ovens cook our food. 

One of the lesser-known uses of fire, and specifically flames, is the calming or soothing effect it has on people. We're hard-wired to associate sitting around an open fire with security, socialization, and relaxation. Our ancestors used fires to cook their food, deter predators, chase away insects, and light their dwellings. All of these things lead to a reduction of stress and a feeling of security. In times of crisis a fire might be needed to stay alive, but the side effects are worth the effort even if you have food, water, and shelter taken care of.

Several studies have confirmed the benefits of watching a fire. Researchers as far apart as Sweden, Japan, and Alabama have done scientific studies to measure the effects of real and virtual fireplaces, campfires, and candles on the human mind and body. Lowered stress, reduced blood pressure, and more relaxed brain functions are all proven effects of the simple act of watching a flame. People become most sociable around a fire; they're willing to sit closer to each other and conversations are easier to start. One of the interesting bits I found in the studies was that the audible crackle of a wood fire had much to do with the level of relaxation associated with a fire. Deep down in our subconscious, we can tell a fake fire from a real one.

Most modern houses and apartments aren't furnished with a usable fireplace, about the closest you're going to find is the fake log gas fireplaces that provide the ambiance without the mess. Virtual fireplaces are more common around the holidays, but you can find DVDs of hours of fireplace video if you look around. Setting up a flat-screen TV with a DVD player is a lot easier and cleaner than lighting a fireplace, and we all know how convenience is the goal for a lot of folks. Flickering “flame” light bulbs are another option; the LED versions are cheap and simulate a candle pretty well.

I do have to throw in the caveat that “fire is a useful servant but a terrible master”. Fire and flames MUST be kept under control to prevent tragedy. Never leave an open flame unsupervised, keep children and pets (and people with similar mindsets) away from fires of all sizes, and always have a way to extinguish a fire close to hand. The calming effect of fire can induce drowsiness, so make sure your fireplace has a spark screen and the candles are contained in a chimney or lantern before you drift off to sleep. Up until Edison developed a usable light bulb and started running wires to every building, people used flames to light and heat their houses, so for most of our history fire and flames were a normal part of our lives. Sadly, most people are untrained in how to live with open flames in modern society.

I've always felt more at ease when sitting around a campfire and even a simple candle or kerosene lamp with its flickering light is enough to calm my nerves a bit. Cheaper than drugs or alcohol and, as long as you use some common sense, a lot safer. The next time you're felling stressed out, try watching a flame for a while to see if it helps. Anything from a candle to a bonfire, whatever you can fit into your life at the time, it's the flame that may help sooth your mind. A lot of my articles are written with a candle or lamp burning in the room. I find it relaxing and it helps coalesce the random thoughts that bounce around inside my head.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Prudent Prepping: New Belt

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

Things are a bit slower than normal around Equipe Escargot, with the weather bringing gusts of 45 mph and rainfall measured by inches per hour not too far away. This prompted my friends and I to look over our emergency supplies. My gear is in good shape, and the Purple Bag Lady is just fine, but the internet and power were not reliable and backup power packs and flashlights were made ready to go. 

One thing that I seem to neglect checking are everyday items like clothes. I have favorite things that I like and keep well past time for replacement because they're familiar, like my old belt: the area where my phone case clipped on was terribly worn with the color rubbed off, and the holes in the area I buckle were so stretched the next hole was too tight. I needed a replacement. I bought this:

Thirty Dollar Gun Belt

I'd originally looked at this company's belt as a gift after several people mentioned how nice their own were holding up. Since I've spent more than $30 on inferior belts in the past, I decided to order one for myself first instead of ordering somewhat blind as to quality and finish. All I can say is WOW! This belt is solid, stiff but flexible, and looks better in person than what the picture shows.

 This is the Distressed Black Belt, and there are barely noticeable 'distress' marks in the photograph. I wasn't sure what 'Distressed' meant exactly... was the leather showing actual scarring or marks from the cow? Could you see the brand mark? Well, not exactly; the marks are added to the belt after it has been made, to give the appearance of some age and wear. Info from the website:
  • One solid piece of beautiful Genuine USA Full Grain Leather Steerhide. 
  • You may see some natural hide and color variations on the front and back, this ensures a genuine full grain leather hide.
  • Custom handcrafted at a real USA company leather shop.
  • Vegetable tanned (veg-tanned) drum-dyed leather hides.
  • 1/4 inch thick or in leather talk, right around 14-15 ounces.
  • 1 1/2 inches wide - Perfect width for standard belt loops and holster slots.
  • Heavy-duty roller buckle with a thick center tongue/prong.
  • For Options in hardware  Click Here
  • We use high quality Chicago screws for changeable buckle.
  • Nine (9) large oval buckle holes spaced at 3/4 inch apart.
I chose to order the standard buckle and order my regular waist size, since this is to be a non-gun belt. The sizing instructions are very clear on how to get the perfect fit by measuring from the crease on your existing belt to the buckle hinge. I measured and chose to have less tail showing past the buckle.

It's been 3 weeks now, and other than my phone case not quite clipping all the way over the belt I have zero complaints. Thanks to everyone who mentioned this great company!

Recap And Takeaway
  • Check your gear, all of it, to see if things are worn and broken. My old belt wasn't broken, but if I had to go somewhere right after work, it would have looked shabby.
  • One extremely nice belt from Thirty Dollar Gun Belt, ordered direct. Sorry, not available from Amazon.
  • Check out all their other gear too. If those items are as nice as this belt, there should be zero complaints!

* * *

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 26, 2021

Smoke Detector Installation

Last week, I talked about what you should look for in a smoke detector. This week, I walk you through the installation process, starting from scratch. 



Monday, January 25, 2021

Homemade Beef Jerky

One of the earliest methods of preserving meat was dehydration; archeologists have found remains of drying racks all over the world, and in practically every culture. Back then, the only reliable option for dehydrating meat was sunlight. In modern times, however, we have better options.

While stand-alone dehydrators are available and can work well, they cost money. If you are considering a dedicated dehydrator, make sure to get one with a fan and not just a heat coil as this feature will significantly reduce drying time. The Elite Gourmet and the Magic Mill are quality products. 

If you don't want to buy or cannot afford dedicated dehydrator, don't worry! So long as you have an oven available, you can make jerky at home. 

In addition to the oven or dehydrator, you will also need the following:

  • Flank steak or some other lean, long grain cut of meat
  • Spices and flavorings. Either wet or dry
  • Toothpicks
  • A Cork or small block of wood

Preparation is fairly simple. Start by trimming as much fat as possible from the meat. The presence of fat decreases the storage time and increases the chance of the jerky going rancid.

Cut the meat with the grain into strips no more than about 1/8 an inch thick. The grain is what holds the meat together after it’s dried. If it’s cut across the grain, it’s likely to fall apart when handled.

Either dry spices or a wet marinade can be used. Marinades should soak at least 12 (and preferably 24 hours to make sure the flavors get all the way into the strips. Dry spices are quicker, but may not impart as nuanced a flavor. If using dry spices, after applying, force some of the spices into the meat by pressing the strips with the side of a large knife, or placing the strips between two cutting boards and applying pressure.

After the strips are ready to be dried, place a rack in both the highest and lowest positions in the oven. Put a drip tray on the lower rack, and push toothpicks half their length through one end of the strips and use these to hang the strips from the upper rack, over the drip pan. Make sure none of the strips are touching the lower pan, as doing so will delay full dehydration.

Once all the strips are hung, it’s time to start the dehydrating process. Many newer ovens have a dehydrator setting, so use that if available. If not, set the oven to the lowest temperature (usually around 180° Fahrenheit) and prop the oven door open with the cork or small block of wood. This will prevent the oven from switching the heating element off once it reaches that temperature. 

Let the oven run for at least three hours before checking. When done, the jerky should be completely dry and leathery. When bent, the pieces of jerky should crack, but not break. Any moisture present increases the risk of developing mold.

Storage can be in any convenient food safe container. If available, a few desiccant packets will prolong freshness. Vacuum sealing is also a good longer term storage solution.

As for how long the jerky will last? I couldn’t say; mine has always been eaten long before it had a chance to spoil.

More details, as well as some spice and marinade recipes, can be found in many places. I still reference an old copy of Home Canning and Preserving from 1977 which has long been out of print. Still available books, such as TheDehydrator Bible or TheUltimate Dehydrator Cookbook can provide more information, as well as recipes, for the novice dehydrator.

Thanks for reading. Till next time.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Product Review: Wahl Color Pro Hair Clipper

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
My father is a career military officer, and so even though at 85 he has sparse, thin hair, he still goes to the barber shop once a month to get it trimmed... or at least he did, until all the barber shops in the area closed down due to loss of business from Covid-19. 

If you are a man who needs a haircut, or a woman with short hair, or you have young children, then it may be worth your while to purchase an electric hair trimmer. I am a fan of the Wahl Color Pro, as it is not only cordless but also comes with attachable combs of sizes from 1/8 inch to 1 inch. These combs are color coded to ensure the right length of hair is cut.

Hygiene is important and long hair requires a lot of maintenance, so after a disaster it may become easier just to cut your hair short. In addition, the Wahl can be used to shave hair around injuries to allow easier access to the wound by caregivers or for bandages to stick. (I do not know how well it cuts pet fur; I expect that it depends on the breed.) 

I found the Wahl easy and convenient to use, and while you may never cut hair into a fashionable style with it, you can definitely use it on yourself and end up with a cut that looks adequate. I find that most men look good with a 1" comb along the sides and a 1/4" comb along the sides and back. Feminine haircuts are harder to do, but Pixie Cuts are possible. 

The worst thing I can say about the Wahl isn't really its fault, and that would be its dependence upon electricity to function. I don't have a good answer to this; it's great to have around the home if you want to save money instead of going to the barber (after 2-3 uses it will have paid for itself) but it is unlikely to be a part of your long-term preps for situations where the power grid goes down. 

On the other hand, we will probably be having pandemic scares and lockdowns for years to come, so perhaps it has a place in your preps after all?

Friday, January 22, 2021

Garden Planners

Winter is when we spend more time inside and make plans for spring. Sitting in a warm house and thinking about being able to get outside more often is a common activity in northern parts of the country. One of the things that used to be common is starting to make a comeback: planning a garden during the cold months so you'll be ready when the snow melts.

I've written before about “garden dreaming” and the joy of browsing through seed catalogs looking for ideas and bargains for a better garden than what we grew last year. The seed companies are making it easier for the digital generation to partake in this activity with the addition of free or low-cost garden planners online or downloadable. I'm still playing with a few of them, but the easiest and most convenient I've found so far comes from Gardener's Supply.

Kitchen Garden Planner (KGP)
This one is a web-based planner that lets you drag and drop various types of plants into a virtual garden bed that you've set up. It uses “square foot” plots instead of the traditional rows, which means that your virtual garden is broken up into sections one foot on a side. You can lay out several sections to create rows if you want to be more traditional, but each set of rows will be in one foot increments of width. Depending on spacing between rows, you may be able to squeeze in a few extra rows than the planner shows.


  • The options for things to plant are a bit limited, but doing some research will let you substitute one of their options for a plant with similar growing patterns.
  • These are kitchen gardens, so you're not going to see options for flowers and only a few herbs. Our grandparents (OK, some of you will have to reach back to great-grandparents) grew a lot of their own food in “Victory Gardens” during WW2 because most of the commercially-grown food was being shipped overseas to feed the troops. You won't be able to feed a family of four completely with just a kitchen garden, but it can lighten the load of what you have to purchase from someone else.
  • There are pre-planned gardens in the menu for those who don't really have a clue as to where to start. They are easy to modify to fit your space requirements and add or subtract crops. Personally, I hate eggplant and would rather spend my time and effort growing something that I would enjoy eating.
  • One of the things that I like about most of these planners is that you can save your design for future use or editing and print it out when you're ready to play in the dirt. Most of the ones sponsored by seed companies will generate a shopping list that you can order from them, which may be convenient but may not always bethe most inexpensive option.
Raised-Bed Gardening
The KGP is also set up for raised-bed gardening, where you build containers of soil that are elevated above ground level to plant your garden in. David Bock recently wrote a good article that covers them in detail. Raised-bed gardening has some advantages:

  • You don't have to bend over as much or as far as you would with a flat bed. This gets to be important as you get older.
  • Keeping young plants a foot or two above the ground shields them from late frosts a bit. This will let you plant a few days or weeks earlier, which stretches your growing season.
  • Having your plants off of the ground makes it harder for the rabbits and other vermin to snack on your future food.
  • Raised beds allow the gardener more control over the soil since it has to be placed in the bed. Tailoring the soil conditions to the crop makes for better yields. Think huge flower pots, with the same control over drainage and water retention, more efficient use of compost, and ease of weeding.
  • Some crops spread by sending out roots that will form new plants the next year a short distance from the parent plant. This is good for growing a garden but bad when the strawberries start to take over the whole yard. Raised beds eliminate this problem by containing the roots- we used an old metal horse tank with no bottom as a raised bed for our strawberries, and it worked quite well.

If nothing else, playing around with a virtual garden will keep your mind off of the snow swirling around outside and keep you from succumbing to the draw of the television. Mindless entertainment has its place, but too much of anything is not good for you. Keep your mind engaged and exercise your imagination once in a while, and you'll be happier.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Prudent Prepping: Charging Up

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

I was asked off-blog about my choice of flashlights, recommended battery types, and what my choices were. That topic was covered in this post from 2018 as well as several others since then; to find them, use the search box in the top left corner and put in Nitecore. 

This post, however, isn't a rehash of flashlights but rather is about charging batteries inside a flashlight! I've made jokes about fans of flashlights with ALL THE LUMENS more than once, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate (or covet) more light. To get all the lumens -- or in my case, a reasonably large number of lumens for my budget -- you need a better set of batteries than what are found on the hardware store shelf. Making that choice affordable in the long run means using rechargeable instead of disposable batteries, which unfortunately requires a charger for those batteries. I had one Nitecore charger for the two flashlights I own, but decided that another was needed to cover my prepping bases. Who hasn't heard or said, "Two is one and one is none"? With that in mind I ordered a spare.
This is a similar charger that was included in the first Nitecore flashlight I bought, but I wanted this particular kit for the car charger plug. If you do an Amazon search for Nitecore chargers you will find many different models, including some with USB plugs. A surprise to me was exactly how inexpensive this charger is: only $20.99! 

From the Nitecore Amazon page:

  • Compatible with and identifies Li-ion (26650, 22650, 18650, 17670, 18490, 17500, 18350, 16340(RCR123), 14500, 10440), Ni-MH and Ni-Cd (AA, AAA, AAAA, C) rechargeable batteries
  • Capable of charging 2 batteries simultaneously; Each of the two battery slots monitors and charges independently Compatible with LiFePO4 batteries too
  • Optimized charging design for IMR batteries & over-charge prevention to protect batteries
  • Integrated LCD panel clearly displays charging parameters and progress; Two conveniently located side buttons allow easy selection of specific battery types and charging parameters. This bundle includes EdisonBright battery carry case with in-car charging cable.
A nice feature about this model is the ability to select the battery type when setting up the charger; along the side are buttons that allows the user to scroll through a list until the specific type of battery is shown. 

Due to how little I actually use these flashlights, the batteries had about a 50% charge from the last time I topped them off, and the recharge time was automatically adjusted by the unit. I've yet to run down the first flashlight, and even though I'd like to see how long it would run before the batteries died, I think I'd need a way to freeze the flashlight body to keep it from either melting or setting anything close on fire from the generated heat from being on for such a long 

I will be upgrading the AA flashlight in the bag I started building last year to a Nitecore P12GT or similar very soon.

Recap and Takeaway 
  • One Nitecore D2 DigiCharger with car charger cord ordered from Amazon: $20.99 with Prime shipping.
  • A very smart addition to my gear, since I now have a charger in my GHB and one at home, ready to dump in a BOB if necessary. 
  • Nothing else was purchased, but several things need to be looked at soon. 
* * *

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 19, 2021

Smoke Detector Basics

It's time for a new smoke detector at my house, so lets go over the basics of what you want in a detector and where you want to put it.


Monday, January 18, 2021

Raised Bed Gardening

If you have a large amount of property it’s possible to put some of that land aside for cultivation of food crops. However, if you lack those large tracts of land, that might not be feasible. 

An alternate consideration is raised bed gardening. Raised beds are available in kit form, like these, but can also be made from all sorts of materials; just be careful to line them with a barrier material if using treated lumber as one of the ingredients often found in pressure treatment chemicals is arsenic.

The first raised beds I built were made from 3”x5”x8’ treated landscape timbers. These timbers cost about three dollars each at the time, and each 4’x8’ bed took twelve of them. The process was fairly simple and I learned as we went. 

First, my wife and I dug out the ground to about the depth of one layer of landscape timber and about six inches clearance around the edges. In the bottom of this we placed a layer of heavy duty anti-weed fabric which allows water to flow through but helps prevent other plants from growing up from underneath your garden. On top of the anti-weed fabric, we placed a layer of gravel to help with drainage. Then I started to assemble the bed itself from the landscape timbers.

As you can see from the pictures, the beds are made from full 8’ lengths on the sides and half lengths on the ends. The layers are held together with countersunk lag bolts, but rebar can be used as well.

Once the frames were assembled, the inside was lined with a double layer of plastic sheeting to help isolate the soil from the chemicals in the wood. The outside space was filled in with spoil from where we dug out the site, and then the beds were filled with garden soil which we'd had delivered and dumped on a large tarp next to them to save both money and time. After the beds were filled and leveled, we covered the top with lighter anti-weed fabric. Cuts were made in the fabric just big enough to plant through.

Over the twelve years we lived at that house we increased the number of raised beds from two to four, and when we sold the house almost four years ago they were still in good shape. The current owner of the home uses them to this day.

We also made a smaller raised bed with a stone border that we used for an herb garden which we called Stonehenge.

I couldn’t even guess how many pounds of onions, tomatoes, peppers (both sweet and hot), cucumbers, etc. we grew in these gardens, not to mention all the dill, oregano, parsley, basil, etc. from the herb garden. 

As an added bonus, our next door neighbors also had a garden and we coordinated with them to some degree. While there was always overlap between our garden and theirs, we both made sure to grow things the other didn’t and we traded produce at the end of the season.

For those on Facebook, there's a raised bed group where people share tips and tricks as well as success and failure stories. Give it a try; it doesn't take much time, effort, or money to increase your food independence using this method.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The COVID-19 Vaccine Explained

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
This is an informative post, not a political post. 

If you're like me, you have some questions about the COVID-19 vaccination, such as:
  • How can it work? I thought viruses mutated and that's why we can't vaccinate against them. 
  • What is mRNA and what does it have to do with a vaccine?
  • Will this vaccine affect my DNA at all?
I am neither a doctor nor a scientist, so I cannot answer these questions for you myself. However, I know several doctors and scientists, and I am able to present to you some information about the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine that will allow you to make an informed decision about whether or not you want to take it. 

I have two ways to explain it: the short, colloquial version, and the more in-depth version which is less conversational. 

The Colloquial Explanation
These are a series of Tweets by a Canadian physician. I know that Twitter is not peer-reviewed, so I asked my Doctor of Microbiology friend to look at them and she said "Other than one typographical error it is correct."








This is where the typographical error lies. "COVID carries its genetic material as RNA, not DNA," says my friend the Doctor of Microbiology.  I asked if this changed the information at all, or if it was simply a case of strike the word DNA in this Tweet and replace it with RNA? "Strike and replace," she says.

In fact, the person who originally tweeted this admitted and apologized for the typographical error as well.













The Technical Explanation
The more in-depth and less colloquial version is too large to post here.  Cedar Sanderson, author and scientist, explains it in this post on her blog

Now You Know
And now you can make an informed decision whether or not to get vaccinated

Thursday, January 14, 2021


Depression is the loss of currency in circulation (such as when a stock market crash wipes out 20% of the money). Inflation is the loss of value of that currency already in circulation. 

Anyone who has paid bills for more than a few years or is on a fixed income knows what inflation is: currency loses buying power over time. This can work to your advantage if you're looking at a large long-term loan, since the monthly payments are fixed and the buying power of that fixed amount will decrease over the life of the loan. For example, if your mortgage payment is $1,000 each month you'll have to work a certain number of hours to earn that $1,000. 20 years from now, with low to moderate inflation and wages that keep up with that rate of inflation, it will take you fewer hours to earn $1,000 to make the mortgage payment. That frees up your time and money for other things, so it actually costs you less each month.

Inflation is part of our current monetary policy, and a lot of people spend a lot of time trying to manage it and keep it under their control. Too little inflation and the economy enters a depression with banks and businesses going out of business because they can't make money by borrowing or lending; too much inflation and the wage increases don't keep up with costs and people start to go bankrupt, starve, and are forced out of their houses. However, the real boogeyman in economic policy is hyperinflation.

Hyperinflation is defined as a rate of inflation that exceeds 50% increase per month. We normally see a rise of a few percent per year and can usually adjust to that, but 50% each month means that costs are rising out of control. Imagine paying $500/month for food in January, but in February the same amount of food costs $750; by March it's $1125, and by July it's $5695. By the next January, that amount of food will cost almost $52,000 -- over 100 times as much! That's the minimum of what is defined as hyperinflation; there are examples of much worse in history.

Hyperinflation has been caused by a few different things or combinations of those things over the centuries:

Loss of Faith in a Currency
If people lose faith in a currency that is not backed by tangible assets (e.g. fiat currency, like the US dollar), the perceived value of that currency drops and people treat it as worthless. Those people start to hoard things of value, like food and materials, which slows the economy and creates more loss of faith, which begins a downward spiral. Wage and price control efforts by a government may help but are often seen as desperate moves, which instills fear and leads to more hoarding.

People all over the world have used the US dollar as a reserve currency for decades because their local currency wasn't as stable, but that is starting to change.

If a large portion of the available currency is sent offshore to fight a war or to pay for damages after a war, it is common for a nation to crank up the printing presses and flood the market with worthless paper. The excessive war reparations imposed on Germany after WW1, coupled with the destruction of a large chunk of their means of production led to hyperinflation, which led to the conditions that made WW2 inevitable. When people are carrying cash around in wheelbarrows to buy basic foods, and the central bank is only printing one side of the currency to speed up the printing process, you know you're in hyperinflation.

Economic Turmoil
If the central bank loses control, or even the illusion of control, over a currency people tend to shift their purchasing and savings habits, which can further push the economy towards collapse. Bank failures are another form of turmoil that can mess things up and kick off hyperinflation if the central banks start printing money to cover the losses.

Theft at High Levels
If a government or the people in it start to rob the treasury for their own uses, they usually do it in style. When billions of whatever currency start to disappear, that currency either fails or the printing presses get cranked up to cover it. Either way, more money is created out of thin air that undermines the value (perceived or real) of the currency. Yugoslavia ran into this in the 1990s when the leader had the central bank write $1.4 billion in loans to his friends. The bank then started printing huge piles of money to cover those loans, which were never going to be paid back, and to cover the operating costs of the government. Inflation increases hit 300 million percent per month before the new government seized control of prices and wages (causing massive shortages of food and fuel) before they eventually adopted the German mark as a national currency.

Hyperinflation has several effects on the population and economy

Once currency loses value, people start buying more durable goods to avoid having to pay more in the future. Eventually this spreads to consumables like food. Increased demand without increased supply drives prices up, which increases inflation and causes more hoarding, so the spiral continues.

Loss of Savings
If you have money set aside for retirement or college, that $100,000 dollars can lose its value quickly. At the bare minimum hyperinflation rate of 50% per month, $100k in January will be worth $1k in a year's time. People stop saving because it's a losing game, which leads to...

Bank Closures
Banks lose huge amounts due to their loans becoming worthless, and with nobody putting anything into savings, they run out of money to lend for new loans that will never bring a profit. Banks go out of business, which curtails production since most businesses rely on revolving debt to operate. The mortgage industry will collapse as well, which will further wipe out investment and savings. Legal title to real estate will be a mess until things get sorted out, but expect a wave of foreclosures and evictions in the early stages.

Barter Replaces Currency
People begin to trade with each other, exchanging tangible goods instead of paper or digital cash. This leads to an “underground” economy that doesn't send taxes to support governments and all levels, leading to reduced government services.

Government Contraction
With less coming in from taxes, and whatever does come in losing its value before it can be spent, governments start to shrink. The early cuts will be to maintenance and services, but eventually they will have to start letting employees go, which adds to...

Massive Unemployment
Banks are closing, businesses are unable to produce anything, governments at all levels are shrinking, and that means there are going to be a lot of people out of work. Those with no practical skills or training that can be bartered for food will soon be hungry and living in the streets.

How You Can Prepare
Preparing for hyperinflation isn't easy; it is one of the major SHTF scenarios just short of TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it).

  • Cover your basics of water, shelter, and food for as long as you can and work towards ensuring a continuing supply of them. This is not one of the short-term emergencies like a hurricane that is going to be cleaned up with outside help within a few months; most cases of hyperinflation drag on for years and there are a few cases where it's been decades.
  • Don't count on outside help. The USA has always been the one to help others recover, and there are no countries capable of helping us in any substantial way.
  • Learn to barter and have skills or stored goods to barter with.
  • Accept the fact that anything you can't lay your hands on is out of your control. Yes, you may have money in a savings account or IRA, but that money can disappear faster than you can blink. 
  • Budgets become guidelines, since you have no control over what your money is going to be worth. Saving cash will be futile; it will be better to spend it on something durable or tradeable.
  • Owning land is a good idea, but you have to be able to be on it to use it. Mortgages might get messy, deeds and titles might go missing or not be accepted by a government, travel is going to be difficult, etc.
  • If you are lucky enough to have a job, get paid every day. At the minimum 50% per month inflation rate, waiting two weeks for a paycheck means losing 25% of your money. In the really bad cases, wives would meet their husbands at work on payday and take the money immediately to the store. Waiting even a day could wipe out a good chunk of your earnings.

I pray that we never see hyperinflation here, but it is always a possibility with fiat currency and central banks. We're stuck with both.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Prudent Prepping: Battery Storage

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

Due to Real Life interfering with my spare time, I had a longer than anticipated break from Blue Collar Prepping. Things have calmed down and I expect to be contributing on a regular schedule. What's going on? Keeping my disposable batteries organized.

While I do have several flashlights that have rechargeable batteries, there are still reasons for having standard alkaline cells at home. I keep them around for standard uses in remotes like TV, stereo or garage openers. I also have AA and AAA batteries in my various bags, along with small, cheap flashlights to use and, if the need arises, to give away. To keep them organized in a reasonable manner and not rolling around in a drawer, I bought several things.

From the Amazon ad:

  • Home Essential Battery Organizer: Rechargeable battery organizer can hold 54 batteries with a battery checker, with this box there is no longer to worry about how to organize messy batteries.
  • For More Type Batteries - It can hold 24*AA, 30*AAA, total 54 batteries, perfect for Energizer Alkaline Batteries, ACDelco, Panasonic, Duracell batteries.
  • Messy Terminator: This battery case neatly holds the batteries snugly in place within the foam pre-cut slots and keeps the contact ends from contacting each other, you don’t need to worry about that this foam will deform, Great way to organize your batteries easy for you to find whatever battery you looking for quickly.
  • Where is The Advantage: It is made of high quality plastic, more resistant and crashworthiness than acrylic, removable soft foam with pre-cut slots, easy for storing batteries, with clear design make it easy to see what you need, the most important, Having a lid that securely locks closed allows us to store the container flat or upright also attach with a clip convenient for hanging on wall.
The foam in the box has die cut spots for the batteries, but the 'plugs' are not removed, possibly because the time involved would be too costly. Regardless, the foam is dense enough that batteries don't move when inserted. 

Now that I have bulk battery storage sorted, what about carrying batteries in smaller, useable quantities? To do that, I needed to find a way to box the batteries before placing them in a ziploc bag and then into my bags. To do that, I bought an old favorite that our esteemed Editrix pointed me towards several years ago.

From the Amazon ad:

  • Package included:4 pcs of battery cases
  • Convenient and intuitive to use,can combine in row
  • Holds either 4 AA or 4 AAA rechargeable batteries
  • Colors: Clear, Pink , Blue, Green
  • Batteries are not included.
I've used these for longer than I can remember for small rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries (123 size) and now all the time to replace the now-discontinued cardboard box battery packages. Since these are not water resistant, let alone waterproof, ziploc bags are being used again. Putting them in a plastic case obviously makes the batteries more expensive, but I don't like the idea of letting AA cells rolling around in a baggie, even if I rubber band everything into a compacted shape. I like the ease of storing the bulk batteries and the peace of mind in having solid cases for the smaller quantities I carry.

Recap and Takeaway
  • One Battery Storage Box purchased from Amazon: $11.99 with Prime.
    • Pro: Solid and secure battery storage
    • Con: Not water resistant due to no gasket in the lid, but the box does seem to latch securely enough to keep dust and dirt out.
  • One set of Lovelybird AA/AAA storage boxes from Amazon: $6.99 with Prime.
    • Pro: solid, secure box that fit the batteries I use
    • Con: If these were water-resistant it would be better but the price obviously would be much higher. Other than that, I have no complaint. 
* * *

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.

Heating and Eating When the Lights Go Out

A fascinating question was posed in the BCP Facebook group. At the least, it was fascinating to me, and based on the conversation there, it got the attention of a whole lot of other people as well. Paraphrasing, the question was "I have an all-electric house. How do I cook food and heat my home in the event of a power outage?" There are a lot of ways to handle these tasks, so lets break them down.

The first way to address a lack of electrical power is with electricity. I know that sounds trite, but it's true. I've talked about backup generators in the past, and they're the quick and easy way to power your house in an emergency. Another option is a solar array with a battery bank. Properly sized, either of these will keep you running when the grid goes down.

If you're not capable of generating your own power, you'll have to look at other means of heating. Lets start with cooking, because why not? If your home has a wood burning stove or a fireplace, congratulations, you can cook like your grandparents or great grandparents, and heat your home at the same time. This is winning all around. Simply heat food on the hearth of your fireplace or the top of your stove. It won't be gourmet, but it will be hot. Make sure that you keep your chimney or flue properly cleaned and that you have adequate fresh air, otherwise you can succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning with no real warning.

If you don't have wood burning heat available to you, then things get a bit more involved. A propane barbecue grill can be pressed into service to cook most things. Charcoal will also work for many things, but it's not as convenient or easy. If you live in a place where a full-size grill is not feasible, tabletop models that run on small 1 pound propane cylinders are available and affordable. They're designed for camping, and they excel at it, but riding out emergencies looks a lot like camping at home. I've personally used the model linked for decades, cooking everything from burgers and hot dogs to soup and breakfasts.

That covers cooking. Now lets look at heating your living space. If you're stocking propane bottles to run a tabletop grill, why not use the same bottles to run your heater? Mr Heater makes a unit that will heat a medium-sized room off the same 1 pound cylinders. It won't heat your whole home, so you'll have to gather in a single room to stay warm, but it will keep that room comfortable.

Burning any kind of combustible material inside requires that you have plenty of fresh air moving through, otherwise you have the same carbon monoxide issue that I mentioned above. Make sure any heater you buy specifies that it is safe for indoor use. In addition, you should have a carbon monoxide detector in your home as a matter of general safety, and make sure that it is in good working order and has fresh batteries, just like a smoke detector.

It's cold outside. It doesn't have to be cold inside.


Monday, January 11, 2021

Home Hot Water Canning: How To Do It

Hello again. In this post, I’m going to talk about prepping your canning jars and lids, as well as walk you through the actual canning process.

For this example I’m going to be processing tomatoes, a high acid food perfect for hot water canning. However, to be on the safe side, an additional acid such as lemon juice (1 tablespoon per pint, 2 tablespoons per quart) or citric acid (¼ teaspoon per pint, ½ teaspoon per quart) should be added prior to canning. This increases the acidity (lowers the Ph) and helps prevent the growth of botulism or other unpleasant organisms.

Examine Your Produce
Before getting started, examine all the tomatoes for blemishes, bruises, or other damage and cut out bad spots if necessary. Any tomatoes that are over-ripe or have even the slightest amount of mold should be excluded from canning. They may still be perfectly fine to use in regular cooking, but the requirements for proper canning are pretty stringent.

Blanching the tomatoes (dipping them in boiling water and removing the skins) can often result in a better product, but is also a lot more work. I’ve canned whole, blanched, diced, and crushed tomatoes; the easiest by far was running them through the food processor and canning the result. However, consider what any recipes call for and choose accordingly. 

You also need to decide between hot pack and raw pack, also called cold pack canning. The difference is simply whether the contents are raw but room temperature (such as fresh or blanched tomatoes) or cooked and still hot (such as stewed tomatoes). Again, personal preference and ultimate use will be deciding factors.

Once the contents and method have been decided, it’s time to move on to the next stage.

Examine Your Equipment
The first equipment check to be made when getting ready to can is to examine the jars, making sure they don’t have any cracks or chips. 

Then, wash the jars in hot water and dish soap. If you have a dishwasher, it may have a sterilize setting.

Next, open a fresh package of lids and wash them as well. It’s important the lids not be boiled, as this can soften and weaken the ring of sealant around the edge, preventing a good, airtight, seal. This is why lids generally cannot be reused for another cycle of canning.

Start Your Engines (Process)
Place the canning pot on the stove top, fill it part way with water, and turn on the heat. Remember, the pot needs to hold enough water to be at least a couple of inches above the top of the jars when boiling. 

If you have a glass-top stove, be cautious; the size and weight of a large canning pot full of water and jars may damage or break the cooktop. Consider using a smaller setup if this is a concern.

Preheat the jars by soaking them inside and out with hot water. Not doing so increases the chance of jars cracking or shattering when plunged into hot water.

Fill the jars using a food funnel, but make sure to leave proper headspace, which is the air gap between the top of the food and the inside of the lid.

For tomatoes, the jars should be filled to no less than half an inch of the top; I prefer leaving closer to an inch of headspace.

If using whole, quartered or diced tomatoes, add water or tomato juice to fill the excess space in the jars. Crushed tomatoes should be fine as is.

Use a plastic or silicone rod to work out any air bubbles in the contents. Wipe the top rim and threads to make sure there’s nothing that would interfere with a good seal.

Place the lids on the jars and screw the rings on, but not too firmly! If the rings are screwed on too tight, air can’t escape during boiling.

Now We’re in Hot Water
Place the jars into a canning rack and lower the rack into the hot (but not yet boiling) water. If necessary, add more hot water until there’s at least an inch or two of water above the level of the lids. Don’t pour the water directly onto the jar tops; try and pour it between the jars instead. 

Put the lid on the pot and turn up the heat. Once the water reaches boiling, start a timer; for sea level to around three thousand feet elevation, pints should be boiled for 40 minutes and quart for 45 minutes. As elevation increases, so does the time, since water boils at a lower temperature at higher elevation. For example, the recommended times for 3,000 to 6,000 feet of elevation is 50 minutes for pints and 55 minutes for quarts.

You can find more information regarding times, elevation, and much more here.

Out of the Water and Onto the Towel
Once the time is up, lift the jar rack out of the pot and, using a jar lifter, move the jars to a towel so they can cool. You should hear a pop from the lids as the jars cool. This is the sound of a good seal.

However, you should check each jar to make sure. Remove the rings and gently push down on the center of the lid. It shouldn’t have much give. If it pops in and out, the jar didn’t seal. Don’t worry, if that happens; it can either be run through again with a new lid, or you can put in the refrigerator and use it in meals. 

Repeat these steps until all the tomatoes are processed.

Once everything is done and the jars are cool, store them in a cool dark place until needed. Never stack anything on top of a sealed jar! This can cause problems with the seal.

Check on them occasionally to make sure none of the jars have leaks. When opening the jars, examine them carefully before use. If anything seems off, discard them! Botulism can kill in very small amounts.

Thanks for reading. Till next time. 

The Fine Print

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