Friday, April 30, 2021

The Millbank Bag

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Have you heard of a Millbank Bag? I certainly hadn't until last week; I believe they're more prevalent in the UK than over here, as they were originally  developed at the Royal Army Medical College in Millbank, London.

The principle behind it ought to be familiar, however: it is simply a tapered canvas bag which, when properly soaked, serves as a prefilter to remove sediment and other particles from your water before you filter or boil it. This also serves to increase the lifespan of your filter. 

To use it:
  1. Soak the bag in water to cause the canvas fibers to swell. 
  2. Fill the bag with water.
  3. Hang the bag using the attached cord. 
  4. Wait until the water is running clear.
  5. Place a bottle, pan, or other water collection device underneath. 
  6. Filter, boil, or chemically sterilize the collected water. 

When you're not using the bag as a prefilter, you can use it to carry items. 

You can purchase a 5 liter/1.3 gallon Millbank Bag made in the USA for $32.25 ($26.50 for the bag, plus $5.75 shipping) at Millbankbagsusa.com

Here's a Millbank Bag being used by Dave Canterbury. 


A Millbank Bag is a lightweight, multipurpose item which deserves a spot in every prepper's Bug Out Bag. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Doxxing Prep

Doxxing, or "dropping docs", is a fairly new threat, which started to become common in the 1990s and has evolved into an everyday occurrence today. Put simply, doxxing is digging up and releasing private information on a person as a form of threat, punishment, or revenge. 

We all have skeletons in our closets. Nobody is perfect; mistakes and poor judgement is part of being human. If you do or say something that offends another person, which is almost a given in today's cultural climate, you run the risk of having your personal information published. Blackmail is another popular option, something usually reserved for those with money or public opinion to lose. Revenge is as old as history and has countless causes. 

Be Prepared for Doxxing
 you have to take stock of your skeletons and decide if they are big enough to have a serious impact on your life if they are paraded in public. This is becoming more difficult because the perpetually offended are digging deeper and searching for anything that their target may have done at any point in their life. The causes of offence are also morphing into some truly bizarre stretches of reality; things that were innocuous 40 years ago are enough to ruin a career today. Certain words and activities are now "forbidden" even though they were in common use in recent history. 

Make the Doxxer's Job Harder

  • Watch what you post on the internet, because it's extremely difficult to delete anything once published online.
  • Modify what you share publicly and privately. Your friends are less likely to share personal information than a random person in your neighborhood group or page. 
  • Choose your social media with care. Research their security and privacy policies. Remember that if you're not paying for a service, you're not the customer; rather, you're the product being sold. Ad revenue pays for most social media, so personal information is what they gather.
  • Stop doing stupid things. This is to reduce future exposure, but some people think they're special and can get away with things. Unless they're major politicians, it doesn't work that way

What If You're Targeted?

If you become the target of doxxing, your options are limited.

  • Fight back. Doxxing the doxxer is a valid reaction, but they can be hard to track down. They also are likely to have less to lose, so it may not have much effect.
  • If the doxxer is a public figure, get a lawyer involved. You won't be able to delete anything they said or printed, but you might be able to hurt them enough financially that they stop.
  • Ignore it. If a perpetually offended idiot digs up a speeding ticket you got 20 years ago and tries to make it a hanging offence, smile and go about your life.
  • Ridicule can work if the doxxer has a sense of shame. This is becoming more rare since society is moving towards an "anything goes" mentality; a society where there are no sins will have no sense of shame. 

It's up to you to decide if doxxing is a serious threat to you. Our circumstances are all different, so take some time for self-reflection.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Prudent Prepping: Take Care

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

It has been an interesting two weeks. As the Chinese proverb/curse says, "May you live in interesting times." 

First Things First
Thank you all for the kind words, thoughts and prayers for me and my family. It means a lot to see so many people who only know me from here and Facebook take the time to do it. Thank you all again.

Self Care with Loved Ones
I was going to write something entirely different two weeks ago, as well as last week and this week too, but Life kept getting in the way. We aren't guaranteed anything in this world except death, since taxes have turned into something optional. With that being the case, spend your time away from your work or other obligations with those who mean the most to you. Do something, anything with them: walk around the block, go to the park, sit on the porch or couch, but spend some time with those that are important to you.

If you haven't noticed, I didn't mention family in the previous paragraph. That was intentional, since for some people (probably many) the term -- and  I'm talking about Blood Relationship Family now -- has some baggage or memories that aren't too uplifting. Those ties will be/are there, and can be ignored if needed to make your life content, but the family I want to talk about is the one we make intentionally, with those we grow to care about and in return are cared for. Those bonds can be stronger than anything you are born into and can offer more support and contentment.

Look to those people. Check up on them. Plan nothing, just do something, anything, to let those around you know you are there.

As for me, I went and flew a kite. With my Family.


After this we bought other kites from Amazon, but every day we have off together hasn't been windy enough to fly them!

Recap And Takeaway
  • It isn't important what you do, just do something with those in your family circle.
* * *

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

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

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

Monday, April 26, 2021

The Humble Air Fryer

There are many tools that can make our lives easier in all sorts of ways and places, such as in the kitchen. For example, a good quality and well-sharpened knife makes food preparation considerably easier. In this post I’m going to talk about one of my favorite new kitchen tools, the humble Air Fryer.

There are two main types of Air Fryer: those with baskets and those with racks. The basket type is basically a specialized deep fryer that can cook foods with a fraction of the oil, while the rack type is a fancy version of a toaster oven with a convection fan and often a rotisserie.

Both styles have a variety of settings and features, which is good. I agree with Alton Brown that there should only be one unitasker in your kitchen: a fire extinguisher. My wife and I own the rack type with rotisserie, and we couldn’t be happier. Some of our friends have the basket type, and they’re quite satisfied as well. Obviously both have pros and cons, but I’m going to focus on the rack type as that’s the one with which I’m more familiar.

Air Fryers, as referenced in the Sam's links above

These devices offer a number of benefits, especially in the warmer months: they take up little counter space, use less electricity, and don’t heat up the house nearly as much as a standard oven. These qualities can make them particularly useful for people in RVs or small apartments, or who don’t have air conditioning. In case of power limitations, loss of natural gas, or similar, an Air Fryer can still be used to prepare food by being run off a 12 or 24 volt battery with an inverter such. In addition, since they are convection ovens (meaning heated air is circulated by a fan) they tend to cook faster as well.

While I haven’t tried all the different settings, I have used all of the accessories that came with our Air Fryer, which include the mesh racks, the rotisserie bar, the rotisserie basket, and the rotisserie skewers.

Kabobs in the author's AirFryer, from prep to cooked

Just the other night we made chicken kabobs using the rotisserie skewers. They came out perfectly, and were delicious served over rice. I’ve only used the rotisserie basket a couple of times, once to try making honey roasted almonds, and I need to work on my process more with that one. We generally use the mesh racks for things like French fries, pork chops, dehydrating herbs from the garden, and so on, I’ve cooked many chickens and roasts on the rotisserie bar.


Garlic crusted roast made in the author's Air Fryer

In addition to the accessories, our Air Fryer came with several booklets containing usage tips and recipes, and additional recipes can be found online. Furthermore, most recipes cooked in a traditional oven can be converted for use in the Air Fryer with minor adjustments.

Cleanup is also much easier than with a conventional oven. On ours, the door comes off for washing in the sink if needed, and the interior can be wiped out with a damp sponge.

The main limiting factor of the Air Fryer is capacity. For example, ours can handle up to a four pound roast or chicken on the rotisserie bar. This is fine for a couple or a small family, but likely not for preparing a full Thanksgiving dinner.

The Air Fryer is a compact, versatile kitchen appliance that is at home not just in your kitchen, but also in your Bug-Out Location or Vehicle. It has its limitations, but within its capabilities it’s a very useful addition to the kitchen toolbox.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Turn Your Hydration Bladder Into an Eye Wash

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.

Last week I mentioned that an eye wash adapter could be modified to work on a hydration bladder.

This week I'm going to show you how and give you a shopping list. If you've followed my instructions on how to make an inline filter for your drinking tube, then you probably already have everything you will need.

You Will Need
  1. One Mazama MagmaFlow Quick Disconnect Coupler. They are currently out of stock at the moment, but if you like you can get a 2-pack for $7.99 on Amazon
    • You can use other quick disconnect brands, but I prefer this because they're the only one I've seen which automatically shuts off the tube when you disconnect the pieces, preventing the water in your hydration bladder from going everywhere and making a mess.  
  2. One male plug. Of course, if you buy the 2-pack listed above then you already have this. 
  3. One piece of hydration tube, approximately 1.5 to 2" long. The Sawyer Fast Fill Adapter Pack comes with a tube that long and two male plugs, along with a single female plug. 
  4. One eyewash adapter

Installation
  1. Make sure your hydration bladder is empty. 
  2. Cut the tube roughly 2" below the bite valve. 
  3. Insert the female end of the Mazama Coupler in the tube closest to the reservoir and the male end in the tube attached to the bite valve. 
  4. Place another male plug onto the spare piece of hydration tube. Rest assured, a Sawyer plug will work with Mazama. 
  5. Place the other end of the tube onto the nipple sticking out from the bottom of the eyewash adapter. 
When all is done, it should look like this:




Place the eyewash adapter into a Ziplock bag to keep it clean and store it with the rest of your quick-access first aid gear. 

To Use It
  1. Remove bite valve
  2. Attack eye wash adapter
  3. Hold cup to eye
  4. Compress hydration bladder
When you're done you'll need to find more water for your hydration bladder, but you'd have the same dilemma if you used a water bottle. Plus, your eyesight is more important than water; you can go 3 days without water, but if you cannot see your survival chances drop substantially. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Cultural Growth

No, I'm not talking about attending an opera or going to an art exhibit, nor were Petri dishes involved. I'm thinking more about food; there are many ways to grow food, and they break down into a few different “cultures”.

Agriculture
Most definitions of agriculture equate it to tending the ground, and the basis of most farming is making sure the soil is optimized to produce as much as it can. There are college degrees involved with tending the soils, so I won't try to get into details.
  • Tilling the soil is mechanically preparing it for plant growth. This includes plowing, discing, and all of the other methods of turning the soil to loosen it up for the new plants while killing some of the weeds.
  • Fertilizing the soil replaces or adds nutrients that the new plants will need to grow.
  • Cultivating is the process of mechanically removing weeds and pests after the crop has started to grow. This cuts down on the competition for water and nutrients and removes things that could harm what you're trying to grow.
  • Pesticides are common chemicals used to kill anything that could harm the crop.
  • Irrigation supplies the needed water when nature doesn't cooperate or you're trying to grow something in an area that won't normally support it.
It's hard work and you're at the mercy of the weather and markets, but someone has to grow the food.
 
Permaculture
Working with perennial plants (those that live more than one year) to produce food is the basis of permaculture: rather than planting a new crop every spring, producers will set up fields that don't require the annual dirt-work to yield a crop. You'll still have to deal with weeds, pests, and proper nutrition for plants, but the crops don't change from year to year. Vineyards are a form of permaculture, and some of them have been using sprouts from the same root-stock for centuries.

There are also other definitions. Some would roll the concepts of “holistic” gardening into the idea of permaculture, by doing away with the basics of farming like separation of crops and use of rows to make tending and harvest easier. Others consider planting annuals and letting them “go to seed” so they naturally reproduce the next year a form of permaculture. Like most things in life, opinions vary.

Aquaculture
Raising fish or seafood instead of plants is not very common in the USA, but is practiced around the world. In aquaculture, fast-growing fish are kept in an enclosure and fed to produce a good source of protein. The Tilapia that you will find in your grocery store was likely grown in an aquaculture facility, and much of it comes from Asia where the conditions can make a cattle feedlot or hog confinement building look like a 5-star resort. Catfish and a few other species are “farmed” in the US and the various government agencies treat it like any other animal facility (they regulate them).

On a small scale, setting up a mesh enclosure in a stream or river and adding fish is as simple as aquaculture gets. Feeding them may be a challenge, but that's normal with any animal operation.
 
Silviculture
The growing and cultivation of trees, silviculture is normally seen in orchards and forests. A form of permaculture, silviculture is fairly labor-intensive because most fruit trees are grown from grafted root-stock. Put simply, the tastiest fruits don't grow on sturdy trees, so nurseries will graft a tasty fruit branch onto a robust breed of tree. This means that the seeds from the fruit of that tree will be of the tasty variety and may not grow as well as the “parent” tree. New sprouts of the base tree need to be removed every spring to allow the tasty branches access to water and nutrients. Harvesting from trees takes specialized equipment, and often time will require multiple trips through the orchard since fruits will ripen at different times.

Mixing shrubs and trees into pastures to give livestock a source of shade and protection from the elements is a good example of silviculture. Using trees that bear fruit or nuts adds to the potential yield of the pasture and will attract wildlife.

Forestry is the growth of trees for use as wood and is the ultimate silviculture, but you're talking decades instead of months to get a crop. Proper management of forests is a very involved and somewhat controversial subject in some areas.

Polyculture
Using a blend of all of the above to produce food can work.
  • Planting annual crops between the rows of an orchard.
  • Grazing animals in a well-established orchard (saplings will get trampled or eaten).
  • Setting up an aquaculture tank next to a greenhouse and using the fish wastes to fertilize the plants.
  • Mixing crops that mature at different times to get the most yield per square foot.

Growing food is important for long-term preps. Being completely self-reliant is a good goal, but not very many people will be able to achieve or sustain that. Grow what you can, as much as you can, and find ways to trade, store, and use what you produce.

Monday, April 19, 2021

North American Rescue M-FAK

Thanks to Erin, David and several other members of the Blue Collar Prepping crew, I finally got off my butt and did something I've been meaning to do for quite a while and picked up a tourniquet. Actually, that’s incomplete; what I picked up is a North American Rescue M-FAK, or Mini First Aid Kit.

Ever since I decided to add a tourniquet to my preps, I’ve gone back and forth between getting a North American Rescue Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT) and a Tactical Medical Solutions Special Operation Forces Tactical Tourniquet (SOFTT.) From what I’ve head, both are very good units with their own pros and cons. 

One of my deciding factors for choosing the CAT is it’s supposed to be easier to self-administer. Another factor is while the M-FAK retails for $74.99 on the North American Rescue website, I was able to get mine at a significantly lower price through work. Hooray for employee discounts!

The M-FAK, Closed and Open

Here’s what the North American Rescue website has to say about this product:

Our most compact, half size First Aid Kit empowering First Responders with the most requested point-of-wounding equipment in the smallest cube space possible.

The M-FAK, North American Rescue's Mini First Aid Kit, was designed to be the most compact, multi-use IFAK for delivering immediate critical care for penetrating, blast or other traumatic injuries. At half the size of our popular T.O.R.K. platform, the M-FAK is currently the smallest platform available in our product offering. Despite its reduced size, this kit comes fully loaded with the critical medical equipment most requested by First Responders operating in the line of duty. Treatment pack out options include Basic, Basic with Combat Gauze and Advanced versions.

The M-FAK’s super compact, 500 Denier nylon bag opens from the side in a clam shell configuration utilizing (2) two main sleeves that open on both ends for easy access and features multiple elastic loops for secure gear organization. The bag’s exterior includes a MOLLE backing for mounting in the standard vertical position as well as a 3 in. internal sleeve for accommodating horizontal attachment to your duty belt. The vertical mount can be set to open left-to-right or right-to-left based on shooter preference, while the horizontal mount on a belt allows opening directly to your C-A-T.® tourniquet. Also included are a loop patch on front of the bag for custom user labeling and (3) three MOLLE strips to attach additional gear such as a TQ/Holder (sold separately) if needed. 
Specs
  • NAR's most compact, versatile Mini First Aid Kit
  • Contains the First Responder's most requested critical point-of-wounding medical equipment for treating penetrating, blast or other traumatic injuries in the line of duty
  • Super compact, rugged nylon platform that allows attachment both vertically (MOLLE backing) and horizontally (3 in. belt loop)
  • Clam shell configuration utilizes (2) two main sleeves that open on both ends for easy access
  • Multiple elastic loops for secure gear organization
  • Vertical mount can be set to open left-to-right or right-to-left based on shooter preference
  • Horizontal mount on a belt allows opening directly to your C-A-T.® tourniquet
  • Treatment pack out option: BLS (Basic Life Support)
  • Half the size of our popular T.O.R.K. platform 
Kit Contents:
  • 1 x C-A-T® (Combat Application Tourniquet®) Black
  • 1 x 4 in. Flat ETD™
  • 1 x S-rolled Gauze (4.5 in. x 4.1 yd)
  • 1 x HyFin® Vent Compact Chest Seal, Twin Pack
  • 1 x pair Bear Claw® Nitrile Trauma Gloves, lg. 
Dimensions:
  • L 6 in. x W 3 in. x D 3 in.
  • Weight: 13 oz

M-FAK Contents


The kit is closed by a two-pull zipper so it can be set up to open from either side or somewhere in between, and the pouch has both MOLLE loops as well as a slot for horizontal belt carry.


https://tinyurl.com/2yaupcsv


The outside panel has the CAT and chest seal; the other has the nitrile gloves, S-rolled gauze, and Emergency Trauma Dressing. Being so small, there’s not a lot of extra space inside, but I’m going to see about adding a few additional items such as Band-Aids and alcohol pads.

I honestly would have preferred almost any other color than black for the pouch, but that’s all the store had in stock. However, since the bag alone runs between $40 and $50 depending on color, I’ll stick with what I have. There is a loop side section for adding a patch. There's only room for one patch, so I had to choose wisely. Happily, I have a patch that not only fits the space perfectly, but is also quite visible.

M-FAK with Patch and Bonus Cat Hair


Due to its small size this will easily fit inside my trainer/range bag without adding much bulk or weight, allowing for ready access at work and home. Funds permitting, I may get another to keep in my car. Going forward, I do intend to get a practice CAT, but that’s future David’s problem.

As has been mentioned elsewhere, be wary of fakes. Even though it might cost a little bit more, it’s better to order directly from the manufacturer and be sure of getting authentic items. Caveat emptor.

Late Breaking News: North American Rescue is having a National Parks Week Sale, 25% off selected items. The sale starts 12:00am ET, April 17th and ends 11:59pm ET, April 25th.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Eye Washing Made Easy

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
As a follow-up to the post Chaplain Tim made yesterday about the importance of being able to wash irritants out of your eyes, here is a handy little device that belongs in every prepper's bug-out bag and first aid kit. 

An Eye Wash adapter like the one shown below will screw onto any standard 500mL plastic water bottle and turns that bottle into a portable eye washing station. A flexible tube reaches to the bottom of the bottle, so all you need to do is squeeze the bottle to release two streams of water into your eye. You can only wash out one eye at a time, but this is a sacrifice made in the name of portability, although I suppose you could carry two along with two bottles and double dose as needed. 



To make mine more useful, I actually bundled the eye wash adapter with an unopened bottle of water inside a large ziploc bag for fast access and to prevent contamination of the eye cup. 



You can also adapt it to work with a hydration bladder if your drinking tube has a quick disconnect valve. Look to my post Hydration Tube Inline Hijinks for more information. 



Here is a video of it being used to wash pepper spray out of someone's eyes:

 


This eyewash adapter weighs just 2.4 ounces and costs $11.50 at Amazon with Prime shipping. Lightweight, inexpensive and essential, it deserves a place in your preps. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Eye Washing

We've mentioned eye washing a few times over the years; the most recent one I found in a quick search (use the search box in the upper left corner) was almost 5 years ago. Bottles of commercially available eyewash aren't very expensive, and in my opinion should be part of every first aid kit. As always, seek professional medical assistance as soon as you can.

Eye washing is simply rinsing foreign matter out of your eyes. Our normal production of tears does a fair job of this on a daily basis, but sometimes we get into stuff that is too much for tears alone to handle.

The ideal eye wash is going to be, in order of importance:

  • Sterile: You don't want to introduce bacteria into irritated eyes.
  • pH Neutral: This is to prevent further irritation.
  • Comfortable Temperature: Eyes are sensitive, 60-100° F is the range you'll be using.
  • Isotonic: This means it has a salt content similar to your normal tears.
  • Large enough: Depending on what you're washing out, you may need quite a bit.


If you have access to sterile saline solution from a medical supply this is an ideal eye wash, but we often don't have what we want, so we have to improvise.

  • Clean tap water will work and is the most commonly found form of eyewash. Dozens of faucet attachments are on the market that will convert a common sink into an emergency eyewash station, most of the time without affecting the normal use of the faucet.
  • Bottled water is a good choice and there are several replacement caps that make a water bottle more efficient for washing eyes.
  • For kitchen emergencies (pepper in the eyes is extremely uncomfortable), milk or weak tea will work. Milk must be checked for freshness to prevent infection, and straight out of the icebox it will be a bit cold, but it works.
  • Homemade saline solution is simply distilled water with a little table salt (non-iodized) added. About ½ teaspoon per cup or 8 teaspoons per gallon will make an isotonic solution.


Once you have your liquid, you need to figure out how to use it.

  • Eye cups fit over the eye and hold the liquid close to the eye, reducing the amount of liquid required. Most of the bottled eye wash kits will have some form of cup attached.
  • Immersion: Simply sticking your face in a bowl of water works. If you don't have a bowl handy, cupping your hands and sticking your face into them works. Open your eyes and slowly rotate them to get the water into the folds of your eyelids. Swimming pools and other sources of open water will work in an emergency, but you start to lose some of the things like sterility and pH that we want.
  • Flowing water: Commercial eye wash stations will be connected to a water supply that provides plenty of water. Open your eyes and let the flowing water rinse them. Not pleasant, but effective.
  • Pouring: If you have a container without an eye cup, you'll have to tilt your head back and pour the liquid into your eyes. Your natural instinct will be to close your eyes when something hits them, so you may have to use one hand to keep the eyelids open while pouring with the other.


Now that you have started to wash your eyes, how do you know when to stop? The general recommended time for generic chemical is 15 minutes, and you'll see that on a lot of labels. Something is always better than nothing, so rinse as long as you can with what you have available. As long as you're using clean, pH-neutral solutions, you can't wash too much, so err on the side of caution and keep rinsing. 

One of the guidelines I found suggests the following times:

  • Minor irritants: 5 minutes
  • Mild to moderate irritants: 20 minutes
  • Non-corrosive chemicals: 20 minutes
  • Corrosive chemicals: 60 minutes


I work in dusty environments a lot, so I wash my face and eyes quite often, Dirt and normal dust are inconvenient, salts are irritating, and some of the industrial chemical are just plain dangerous. My eyes are important, so I keep water on hand to wash them out when needed.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

David Blackard's Father Has Passed

Hello, Blue Collar Prepping readers. David's father passed away on Sunday. Here is the message from David's sister: 

 Hi family and friends;

Last night our dad passed away peacefully at 91 years. He led a full life and taught us so much. 

Please keep our mom in your thoughts as she adjusts to life without him. They would have been married 70 years later this month. 

We are grateful for our significant others, holding us up, as we navigate this new chapter of our lives. 

Tell your people you love them. 


Naturally, David has the week off to be with his family during his time of loss.  

David and his father and mother

David has the following message for our readers:

We don't have anything planned yet but if people want to send cards at random intervals to my Mom, that's great. Doesn't have to have any message (she can't remember things well) but nice pictures will be cool. 

1300 Juanita Dr.
Attention: Dorothy Blackard
Walnut Creek, CA 94595

 (This is an assisted living facility)  


I'm sure that David will also appreciate messages of support in the comments. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Monday, April 12, 2021

Sausage Fest

“Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” -- John Godfrey Saxe, 1869

Sausage is one of humanity's oldest prepared foods and when made properly can potentially be stored without refrigeration for an extended period of time.

However, the sausage I made for this article needs to be refrigerated or frozen if it’s not to be eaten right away.

Supplies
In order to make sausage, certain supplies will be needed. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Meat grinder
  • Sausage stuffer
  • Sausage casing
  • String or twist ties*
  • Meat
  • Additional fat*
  • Spices

* May not be necessary for all sausages

The author's old and new grinders


There are a variety of meat grinders on the market, from the basic and traditional hand-cranked style, through dedicated powered units, and then on to meat grinding attachments for other appliances. While I still have a vintage, cast iron, hand crank meat grinder (mine is called the Maid of Honor) I haven’t used it since I got the food grinder attachment for my KitchenAid Mixer.

Components of the grinder attachment



The sausage stuffer is attached to the outlet on a meat grinder, and is made up of a long tapered tube (called a horn) which holds the casing and feeds the ground meat. There are also dedicated manual stuffers available.

Stuffing horn replaces grinding disk


Sausage casing is traditionally made from cleaned and dried intestines, but is also available in various synthetics such as collagen, cellulose, plastic, and even 100% plant based casings, not all of which are edible. Depending on the type of casing, there may be additional preparation required, such as rinsing or soaking.

Once the sausage is stuffed the links will most likely need to be separated. While this can be done simply by twisting the sausage to separate them, I haven’t had good luck with this method and prefer twisting, then tying off with cotton string. Twist ties can also be used for this step.

I’ve made sausage from venison, chicken, and pork and eaten many more types. Nearly any cut of meat will do, but usually the cheaper and tougher cuts are used for sausage. This batch was made from a pork roast I got on sale at our local grocery outlet.

I also bought a pound of pork fat to add to the mix. It’s easy for sausage to turn out too dry, especially if it’s frozen for a while. Adding extra fat helps prevent this. Pork fat is the most common, but other solid animal or vegetable fats should work as well.

Where things can get really creative are in the spices. Italian sweet, Italian hot, Andouille, bratwurst, Asian, and many more mixes are available, or you can make up your own. My general guideline when starting a new batch is to scant the salt and any really powerful spices until I’ve had a taste test. It’s much easier to add more than to remove too much, after all.

Process
After getting all the equipment and supplies ready, the first step is to grind the meat. For most sausage meats you should use the coarse grating disk, though there are some recipes that call for a double grind, first coarse then fine.

Once the meat is ground, add the spices and mix them into the meat using your hands. I tend to knead like I do with bread dough: fold the mix in half, press it down, rotate 90 degrees, and repeat. The spices should be evenly distributed.

Sausage mix with spices


Pull a tablespoon or so from the mix and fry it up in a pan, let it cool, and taste test. If necessary, adjust the spices and mix again. 

If your stuffing horn attaches to the grinder like mine does, clean the grinder before moving on to stuffing. Feed the casing onto the horn and tie off the end. This is very important, nay essential: tie off the end very well, else you may wind up with a counter covered in sausage stuffing.

Just over six feet of prime sausage

While you can separate the sausage into links while stuffing, I find doing this breaks my rhythm, so I prefer stuffing the entire length then dividing into individual sausages once I’m done.

Separated into links


Be careful not to overfill when stuffing the casing. There needs to be enough slack so you can twist or tie the links; if there isn’t enough room for the displaced filling, you can have a blowout. This happens, so don’t fuss if it does; in fact, I suffered a blowout in this batch and lost two links. The filling was salvaged and fried up as an addition to pasta and sauce for dinner that night. Yummy!

Don’t forget the last bit of filling left in the sausage stuffing horn and possibly in the screw threads as well. I heard this referred to as the Butcher’s Tithe many years ago and the term has stuck with me. Fry that up just like you did with the taste test at the beginning. After all, you earned it!

The basic recipe I mostly followed is below. I couldn’t find hog casings, so I used collagen instead. I of course adjusted the spices to taste, and I made six inch links instead of four, just because I could.

Sausage making is not complicated and allows for the use of some very inexpensive cuts of meat and meat scraps. If you take your time you get a more harmonious outcome. So next time someone tells you to “stuff it” you can say you have. Enjoy.


Andouille Sausage Recipe

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs. boneless pork butt (Untrimmed)
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic granules
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, table grind
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 5-6 ft. 33-36MM hog casings

Directions

  1. For Andouille links, rinse the casings thoroughly in cold water, then place in lukewarm water prior to filling with the sausage mixture.
  2. Grind meat one time through coarse 3/8" or 1/2" plate.
  3. Combine ground meat with remaining ingredients; mix/knead well. 
  4. Taste test by frying a small quarter-size patty to see if you approve of the flavor as is.  Make changes if needed.
  5. Carefully stuff the sausage mixture into the casing, filling the casing snugly but not so tight it will burst open during the linking process.  Continue until the entire casing is filled.
  6. Form 4" sausage links by pressing the filled casing gently with your forefinger and thumb and twist four or five times in one direction, repeat and twist in the opposite direction until done.
  7. Or stuff the Andouille mixture into 1 or 2 lb. poly meat bags. Freeze slightly and then slice into 1/2" slices.
  8. Cook, fry, bake or broil just as you would any fresh pork sausage. Remainder should be frozen until needed.
Makes 5 lbs of sausage. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Dementia & Elderly Care

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
This one's going to be a ramble, because my post is less a case of "Here's what you need to do" and more like "This is what I've learned through experience."

To give you a brief idea of what my home life is like, I live with my elderly parents (dad is 85, mom is 82) and in exchange for room and board I do the things they can't do, like drive them to doctor's appointments, take them to the ER late and night, fix the computer, lift things they cannot, climb ladders to reach things, etc. In short, I'm the only able-bodied person in the house, which is rather like having the lamest superpowers ever. ("Behold NORMALWOMAN! She has all the abilities of a middle-aged woman, which makes her the strongest, sturdiest, and fastest person in the house!")

My father has Parkinson's Disease, and his manifests primarily as having bad balance. He falls a lot, and frequently hits his head. He refuses to use his walker inside the house, and I don't know how much of that is due to him just being an ornery cuss (we're Texan) or how much of that is due to his dementia. Parkinson's is a neuro-degenerative disease, and one of the non-motor symptoms is dementia. We knew things were bad when he complained that the remote control wasn't working... while pointing the cordless phone at the TV. 

So, my father falls a lot, injures himself often, and frequently can't get up without help. This means that I have become an on-call nurse, or at least an orderly, 24/7/365. Here's what I've learned:
  • If you can at all afford it, get in-home care for your loved ones with dementia or who otherwise need constant monitoring. Not only will they respond to professional care, but -- and I cannot stress this enough -- you need the constant burden off your shoulders. Even professional caregivers have shifts which end and they get to go home at the end of the day, but if you are a live-in caregiver then your shift never ends and that's terrible for your morale and your physical health. 
  • The moment your loved one is diagnosed with a degenerative illness you should start the legal paperwork so that someone in the family has both Medical and Financial Power of Attorney over them. This is because, in my experience, it takes a long time for these things to go through; we started the ball rolling in mid-February of this year and we still don't have everything done. 
    • All of this has been with my father's help, by the way, and the reason we waited so long was because he was stubborn and didn't want to give up control, and it took him several nasty falls to realize that things were getting worse and not better. If we'd done this sooner we could have had him in a VA home by now; as it currently stands, when we finally get all the paperwork done he'll still have to be on a waiting list. 
    • Get the paperwork done early if possible. Even if your loved one fights you on this. It's better to have a fight now and get them help sooner than wait until they give in and then you're trying to beat the clock. 
  • Speaking of paperwork, I don't know about other homes but I know that the Veteran's Home where my father wants to go requires miles and tons of forms, including but not restricted to: a checkup at the VA hospital; a transfer of all his medical documentation to them; a form filled out by his primary care physician stating that my father needs constant care; documentation of his disability (in his case he's 100% disabled); and of course the previously mentioned Powers of Attorney. I think we'll be lucky if we get him into the VA home before July, and I honestly don't know if he will last that long; one of these days he's going to take a nasty fall and break something. 
  • Finally, remember to take care of yourself. If you get sick because you push yourself too hard, or injure yourself because you try to do too much, you've hurt two people: yourself and the person you're caring for. In my case I hurt three, because then the burden falls to my mother and she's already at her wit's end. 
    • If you can afford it, seeing a therapist is highly recommended. It's immensely frustrating having to take care of an adult-sized, adult-weight toddler, and that's what dementia patients can become. It's very, very easy to become resentful of the person for whom you're caring, and that can lead to tension at home and strained relationships. The very last thing you want is for your final years with someone to be filled with anger towards them. 
    • To circle back, this is why you need professional help in the home. Being able to take a break, to have "me time", to be able to do things for yourself without filtering it through the lens of "Can I do this or will my duties prevent it?" will help your mental and emotional health immensely. 
That's all I have for now. When I learn more I will post a follow-up. 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Fire Season

Winter is over, spring has begun, and fire season is upon us. While the wildfires and forest fires that plague California get the most coverage in the media, most of the US is susceptible to brush fires that can destroy homes and property. The scale is what's different: California and the western US have large areas of forest that can burn while most of the rest of the country have the wooded areas broken up by roads and open fields.

Climate conditions have a lot to do with wild fire risk; hot and dry areas will always burn better than cool and wet ones. Thunderstorms are more common in the spring, and lightning is a common cause of wild fires. Here in the Midwest, we don't have forests but we do have large tracts of native prairie owned by the states, and prairies like to burn. While not as large or as impressive as a forest fire, a brush fire can ruin your day just as fast.

Prepping for a fire outside the home is mostly common sense:

1) Be ready to leave on short notice.
Your Bug Out Bag is useful for more than just bad weather. Sometimes called INCH (I'm Not Coming Home) bags, you'll want to have what you need to keep going in case you don't have a home to come back to. Use the search box in the upper left-hand corner for our articles on the various types of bags.

2) Pay attention to local conditions.
The National Weather Service issues fire danger alerts when conditions are ripe for fires. Dry air and high winds are the main factors, so know your prevailing wind directions; around here the winds tend to come from the north in winter and south in the spring/summer. Weather rolls in from the south and west, so that's where we look for rain and lightning. 

Fire is a tool sometimes used to manage land. Prescribed burns on farmland, ditches, and hillsides are common practice as the fire removes built-up debris and kills a lot of weeds and pests. Farmers have been using reduced-tillage methods for decades, which means they don't plow the fields as often (or ever) and crop residue builds up over time. A common method of removing this residue (stalks, stems, and leaves) is to burn it by taking a tractor, hooking up a long chain to the rear, putting an old tire at the end of the chain, throwing a gallon of diesel fuel onto the tire, lighting it, then driving around the field so that the burning fuel and bits of molten tire ignite the residue. If the residue is dry enough, the fire will burn hot enough and long enough to destroy weed seeds and kill several types of pests that live in the top few inches of soil, which reduces the need for chemicals. The ashes from the fire will return nutrients to the soil faster than normal decomposition, too.

The smarter farmers will have tilled a fire break around their field first, but I've seen a lot of idiots in my life. Watch what your neighbors are doing, because some of them are going to be idiots. Call your local fire department on their non-emergency line if you have questions about burning anything outside; they'd much rather prevent a fire than respond to one.

3) Know your evacuation routes.
Have more than one way out of your area, preferably in different directions. If fire and smoke is blocking a road, know how to detour around it to get to your destination. 

Fires can spread faster than emergency responders can react, especially in rural areas, so don't wait for an evacuation order. If in doubt, leave.

4) Prep your home & land to avoid fires.
The NFPA (National Fire Prevention Association) does a lot of good work. They're the ones who write most of the electrical and building codes that prevent fires inside buildings, but they also have good suggestions for prepping the outside of your house. The short version of their advice is:

  • Homes catch fire from wind-borne embers or radiant heat
  • Clean your gutters and check your roof, eaves, and attic vents
  • Keep anything flammable at least 5' from your house. This includes trees, mulch, and shrubs.
  • Keep the yard clear of leaves, dead grass, branches, etc.
  • Proper spacing of trees prevents fire from spreading (wind breaks should be at least 100' from any building)
  • Clear dead vegetation from under fuel tanks and decks

Fire is a useful tool as long as it's under control. I've learned how to set back-fires and how to burn into the wind from professionals for the times we need to clear out ditches and pastures. It's hot, smoky, dirty work, but seeing the new grass sprouting through the ashes of several years' worth of built-up debris is worth it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Prudent Prepping: When The Shoe Fits

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

Well, well! Another item has been checked off my prepping wish list for my friend, Purple Pack Lady. We were looking for a jacket that was mentioned in this post and she saw shoes she liked... or at least shoes that were in colors she likes (eyeroll), so we went back to REI to see what could be found.

However, that turned out to be a large part of a small problem, and that small problem is "fit". Purple Pack Lady is decidedly petite, especially in the feet, and so several nicely colored shoes were looked at, tried on, and found to be too big, either in size, length or width. The potential to Special Order smaller sizes in two of the brands was mentioned, but both of us do not like to order, try on, say "No" and then return things, just to start the whole process again. 

She ended up wearing a pair of Moab FST Low Waterproof Shoese home. 

Merrell Moab
From the Merrell website:

Now you can have matching MOAB FST with your mini-me. Low profile, but high-performance, Merrell’s MOAB Low Waterproof hiking shoes features a breathable mesh upper and M Select™ GRIP on the outsole making it lightweight, durable and trail-ready.

FEATURES
• M Select™ DRY waterproof construction keeps feet dry
• M Select™ GRIP for flexible, non-marking traction
• Durable synthetic and lightweight, breathable mesh uppers
• Anti-bacterial properties in lining helps prevent bacteria and control odor
 

This is actually a child-sized shoe pictured, but that is what really fit Purple Pack Lady  correctly. I don't have any hesitation in buying a kids' shoe from this company since they are known as a quality brand, no matter what size.

Plus, "The colors go with so many other outfits I have!" If I roll my eyes any harder, I might dislocate an optic nerve.

Recap And Takeaway
  • Purchased from REI: one pair of Merrell Moab kids hiking shoe, $58. While they are available from Amazon for less, I do not have the ability, time or patience to continually order and return shoes until I get a good fit. Besides, as a member of REI, I get a small refund on all my purchases!
  • It's also a sturdy, well-made hiking shoe that is sorta-kinda waterproof, or at least as waterproof as a low-top can be.
  • I'm glad that my friend is happy and getting into buying quality for about the same price as 'pretty'. 
  • Nothing else was purchased this week, but items did arrive that will be reviewed next week!
* * *

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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.

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